The first phase of a new solar farm in Oswestry will be up and running by this time next year, Shropshire Council has said.

The project, which centres on the former landfill site on Maesbury Road Industrial Estate, was given the go-ahead by councillors at a meeting held behind closed doors last week.

And the authority has now revealed that the power generated will be sold directly to dairy giant Arla for its factory next to the site, removing the need for costly work to connect it to the National Grid.

A planning application for the first stage of the new solar farm is now being prepared and will be submitted later in the year.

Costing just over £1 million, the council says the initial phase will produce enough energy to power the equivalent of 500 homes a year.

It is hoped that extra panels will be added later to bring the site up to full capacity, capable of powering 1,200 homes a year.

Councillor Ian Nellins, portfolio holder for climate change, said the scheme would not contribute towards the council’s own target of becoming carbon net zero by 2030, it would demonstrate the authority’s commitment to helping county businesses to cut their emissions.

Councillor Nellins said: “Although this doesn’t come under our own net zero, it’s a contribution to the rest of the county.

“The council itself is only one per cent of the carbon usage within the county.”

Councillor Nellins confirmed that the first phase would be powering the Arla factory by the summer of 2022, subject to a smooth planning process.

Attention will then turn to the remainder of the site, which the council hopes could supply power directly to another local business under a similar arrangement.

Adrian Cooper, the council’s lead officer for climate change, said: “Originally the plan was to generate power on this site and put it into the grid, bit the costs of doing that are very high and the local Grid needs some additional work before that could happen.

“We are looking instead to supply the power directly to local businesses.

“This is a site slap bang in the middle of an industrial estate, so it makes sense to do that.

“At the moment we can only realise about half the capability of the site.

“We are hoping to continue to work with the power company, Scottish Power, and see if we can come up with a second phase or a redesign to capture the full amount of energy from the site.”

Mr Cooper said the £1 million outlay would be recovered over the 30-year lifespan of the panels.

“It’s not a scheme that’s going to make us lots of money,” he said.

“What we are going is making good use of an underused site that the council happens to own.”

Mr Cooper said the deal with Arla would also benefit the company by offering protection from an anticipated rise in the cost of energy.

The site earmarked for the panels is the flat top of the landfill “mini mountain”, which is now grown over with grass and surrounded on all sides by semi-mature woodland.

Mr Cooper said because of this, the solar farm would not be visible from anywhere in Oswestry.

The council estimates the site will prevent around 250 tonnes of carbon – equivalent to 56 Olympic-sized swimming pools – from entering the atmosphere each year.

The council hopes to construct more solar farms on land it owns across the county, which, depending on location, could be used to power council buildings, other public sector buildings such as hospitals, private business premises or sold to the Grid.