Quarries can be Malta’s solar farm alternative

A 15-month Strategic Environmental Asseement (SEA) commissioned by the Planning Authority is in the offing to provide expert guidance on the impacts of solar farms, and identify mitigation measures that must be integrated into solar farm development in quarries

Perit Joseph Scalpello, Planning Authority’s Assistant Director (second from left) with Ing Mario Schembri AIS’s Managing Director. Also in photo Michelle Borg PA’s Unit Manager and Sacha Dunlop, Departmental Head at AIS
Perit Joseph Scalpello, Planning Authority’s Assistant Director (second from left) with Ing Mario Schembri AIS’s Managing Director. Also in photo Michelle Borg PA’s Unit Manager and Sacha Dunlop, Departmental Head at AIS
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A wide spectrum of NGOs, local councils, ministries and University of Malta faculties are engaged in consultation over the use of Maltese quarries for the siting of solar farms.

A 15-month Strategic Environmental Asseement (SEA) commissioned by the Planning Authority is in the offing to provide expert guidance on the impacts of solar farms, and identify mitigation measures that must be integrated into solar farm development in quarries.

The SEA is a requirement of the Solar Farm Policy issued by the PA, which also comes with an Appropriate Assessment (AA).

The 2017 solar farm policy outlines the drastic reduction in photovoltaic panel prices, offering the alternative, cost-effective path for Malta to reach its 2020 target to have 10% renewable energy sources.

The policy gives priority for the development of solar farms in quarries – operational, inactive or disused – among other sites, to mitigate their negative visual impact. Quarries restored before the date of adoption of this policy are ineligible for the development of solar farms.  

Solar farms are defined as a commercial  installation  with  a  footprint  larger than 1,000 square metres in one consolidated and contiguous area, not usually related to residential development, for the purpose of photovoltaic energy.

As prominent eyesores, especially within the low-lying localities of Mqabba, Qrendi and Siggiewi, quarry owners are being encourages to restore their quarries to generate green electricity.

Restoration of abandoned or disused quarries may also lead to backfilling with inert construction waste, relieving alternative sites.

The policy prohibits the development of solar farms in quarries within or near Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). Such sites shall only be considered following the SEA and AA results.

The SEA’s initial outcomes will be shared with the largest number of stakeholders and public groups possible so that the the potential environmental impacts of solar farms in quarries is extensively analysed.

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