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New 24,000-panel solar facility to help UK utility save cash and green its operations

Brian Morrison | Image courtesy of NI Water

A new solar facility with 24,000 panels is set to meet the power needs of a water treatment plant in South Antrim, Northern Ireland.

The £7 million ($9.50 million) Dunore Solar Farm has been built on a 33-acre site on the eastern shore of Lough Neagh and will supply energy to the Dunore Water Treatment Works, water services company NI Water said in a statement Thursday. The new solar farm is expected to save the business more than £500,000 per year in energy costs.

"As the largest user of electricity in Northern Ireland, we are committed to finding innovative renewable energy projects to reduce our expenditure on power, which has already tumbled by £5 million over the last three years," NI Water's CEO, Sara Venning, said in a statement.

"The Dunore solar farm is a major step toward reaching our goal of increasing electricity consumption from renewable sources from the current 13 percent to 40 percent by 2021," Venning added.

Venning went on to state that the business was committed to operate as efficiently and cleanly as possible. "Dunore is one of many innovative renewable energy projects which NI Water is developing to ensure we become more energy efficient while also making cost savings to our business," she said. "This flagship project will also save around 2,000 tons of carbon every year."

The world has invested $2.9 trillion in green energy sources since 2004, according to new research, with China leading the way in recent years with its push towards solar power.

The "Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2018" report, published at the beginning of April by UN Environment, the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Center, and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, found that 98 gigawatts (GW) of new solar capacity was installed in 2017.

Solar power attracted $160.8 billion of investment, more than any other technology. China, where a staggering 53 GW was added and $86.5 billion invested, was described as a "driving power" behind the increase in solar.