Farmers and locals see red on greenhouses at Mġarr, a huge solar farm

An app seeking to turn a virgin land in Mġarr larger than six football fields into a solar farm “uses agriculture as an excuse” because no crops will grow in greenhouses under panels, farmers say.

Farmers, environmentalists and residents oppose the project filed by Joseph Schembri of Electrofix Group, for a solar farm consisting of 6,023 panels atop greenhouses in the Tar-Ragħad region.

The site, with an area of ​​43,303 m², is made up of around 16 sites, according to the town hall, which has also expressed its concerns about the project.

“The application for the solar farm was submitted under the agricultural cover of greenhouses. It’s a lie and a farce from start to finish, ”said full-time farmer Joe Muscat. Malta timetables.

“The main purpose of a greenhouse is to create a microclimate using daylight outside, prompting the plant to produce a crop. In our experience, nothing will grow in these shaded greenhouses, ”added Muscat.

Muscat, from a long line of farmers, specializes in greenhouse tomatoes spread over 11 earthen mounds. In just one year, his family produced 25,000 tomato plants.

Mgarr built-up area next to the proposed project. Photo: geo server

According to Muscat, the solar farm will occupy land with a footprint equivalent to one-sixth of the built-up area of ​​the locality.

He noted that Malta could not sacrifice more land used for agricultural purposes, especially given the increasing desertification of the island and the resulting food security risks.

According to the applicants, the area is an “empty piece of land, currently unused”, however, said local farmers. Malta timetables that although the land is arable, it was still used until recently.

The Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi also believes that candidates for solar farms are using greenhouses as a loophole because it is difficult to get permission to build on virgin land.

The Agricultural Advisory Committee, within the Ministry of the Environment, opposed the proposal, noting that it was “obvious” that the main purpose of the project was a solar farm, not a greenhouse.

The committee requested a technical report by an engineer and agronomist that provides information on the daily light required and the photoperiod required by the crops. She also expressed concern about the “considerable visual impact of the proposal on the surrounding countryside”.

He added that the land use would be “excessive” and the proposed reservoir “too small”, with rainwater eventually ending up in neighboring areas.

According to farmers who spoke to Malta Hours, the construction of greenhouses and solar panels will prevent large amounts of water from being absorbed into the soil, as the runoff flows down the street and ends up in the temples of Ta ‘Ħaġrat at the other end of the village.

The site of the proposed solar farm is in the Ta 'Ħaġrat and Skorba area of ​​archaeological importance with a class A level of protection.The site of the proposed solar farm is in the area of ​​archaeological significance of Ta ‘Ħaġrat and Skorba with a class A level of protection.

Archaeological remains

The local council is among those who have expressed concern about the temples, saying the solar farm project site is in the Your aġrat and Skorba area of ​​archaeological importance with a level of protection of class A.

“The heritage sensitivity of the site is important, both in the context of current archaeological features and the cultural landscape. In this regard, the scale of development as a whole is a critical concern, ”he said in his representation.

Ta ‘Ħaġrat and Skorba are part of a group of megalithic temples built during the fourth and third millennia BC that are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Skorba is also the only megalithic temple site in Malta to have been excavated in living memory using a scientific method.

Art historian and Mġarr resident Andrea Depasquale recounted Malta timetables the proposed farm was not far from other archaeological remains, in particular Punico-Roman tombs hosting a unique Agape table and one career dating from Roman times.

The rocks were most probably cut in the quarry to build the Roman baths off Mġarr.

“The project would have an impact on the historical context of these remains, setting a precedent for other archaeologically and historically rich sites,” he said.

The Superintendent of Cultural Heritage said Malta timetables he was still evaluating the proposal.

The proposed site is not far from a Roman quarry.  Photo: Matthieu MirabelliThe proposed site is not far from a Roman quarry. Photo: Matthieu Mirabelli

A petition from residents against the project

According to Joe Grima, speaking on behalf of the locals, the project “will divide Mġarr with a huge glass village” because the designated site is at the crossroads between the village proper, Żebbiegħ, Binġemma and Ta ‘Mrejnu.

Grima noted that residents were aware of the need for renewable energy, however, clean energy should not be harvested at the expense of farmland and scrubland that is home to bees and Mediterranean thyme.

The panels, according to residents who sign a petition opposing the solar farm, should be installed on schools, government buildings, factories, industrial areas or quarries.

“The virgin lands are disappearing fast and we cannot afford to lose what is left,” said one local in his representation, while another local expressed frustration: “I am so mad at the mess that you have created in our country. What about people who only care about money? At this rate, Mġarr will end up looking like Mosta in no time.

An objector from Strasbourg complained: “As regular visitors to Mġarr, we were saddened to learn of the plan to build a solar farm in the countryside. These natural sites are great assets for Malta and one of the reasons we love visiting Mġarr so much. ”

The proposed project will occupy virgin land with more than six football fields.  Photo: eappsThe proposed project will occupy virgin land with more than six football fields. Photo: eapps

What does the solar farm policy say?

Solar farms should not occupy virgin or agricultural land, according to the policy, which favors large-scale rooftops, parking lots, industrial areas and quarries.

He also opposes proposals to develop solar farms in areas where there is evidence that the site, or part of it, has already been registered as agricultural land, scrubland (xagħri), maquis and areas of interest. archaeological, cultural or scientific, among others.

At the same time, the rural policy allows the authorities to consider only “small-scale photovoltaic panels” on greenhouses.

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