The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Application for large solar farm in Benghajsa approved

Kevin Schembri Orland Thursday, 7 February 2019, 10:33 Last update: about 3 months ago

An application for the construction of a large solar farm in Benghajsa, Birzebbuga, in a now disused landfill on ODZ land, was approved this morning by the Planning Authority.

The proposal covers an area of approximately 29,000 sqm, and is located within a disused landfill in the limits of Benghajsa, Birzebbuga. The site is currently used for bird trapping activities and waste fly-tipping of vehicle scraps, the case officer’s report read. “As outlined on the Project Description Statement, during a period of time, the site had been used for quarrying activities, and subsequently acted as a landfill for the disposal of various waste types, particularly for the disposal of Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA) from the Marsa Power Station. “

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“Dumping of fly ash ceased after 1992, when the power station was modified from burning coal to using heavy-fuel oil.”

The site, the report reads, will contain around 8,000 PV panels. The total energy output is calculated to be approximately equal to 2.4 Mega Watts of renewable energy.

The report notes that consultation with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage (SCH) was also carried out. “The Superintendence finds no objection for the removal of the structures utilised for bird-trapping” and requested photomontages taken from Fort Benghijsa “in order to better assess any impact on the scheduled fortification” which is in the area.

“Once the architect submitted the required photomontages, SCH was re-consulted and noted that the photomontages received “confirms the high visibility of the proposed solar farm. Given the potential impact on the cultural landscape and on views from Fort Benghisa, the Superintendence further considered the case. “Due to their reply, and following the second consultation, the architect was requested to liaise directly to SCH, and submit clearances from them. This was submitted stating that, “there was a historical anti aircraft battery on site, however, was destroyed in large part by quarrying activity in the 1970s or 1980s, and is no longer present within the footprint (...) the proposed solar farm should therefore not pose a threat to historical wartime features. (...) In the light of the above, the Superintendence does not object to this application”.

The architect is proposing the plantation of 132 indigenous trees around the site. The proposed solar farm at Benghisa is located in an Outside Development Zone (ODZ). “Therefore, in accordance with criteria 7.2 of the Solar Farm Policy, all development permitted under this policy in an ODZ should be decommissioned and the site re-instated to an acceptable use, within 30 years of the issuing of the development permission. This has been included as condition on the development permit,” the report read.

The case officer had recommended that the application be approved, and the PA Board approved the application.

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