UNSEASONABLY sunny weather in the spring saw the solar farm that helps power a Scottish food business set new records for the season.

Mackie's of Scotland's solar array, based on its Aberdeenshire family farm at Westertown, produced more green energy in April 2020 than in any month in 2019 – spiking by more than a quarter against the same month across any of the previous four years.

March was sunny and May followed with more heat to make the total production this spring the highest on record since installation in 2016.

In total across the three months, the 7000 panel system produced over 640 megawatt hours of electricity – enough to boil over 6.4 million kettles – or to power 193 houses for an entire year.

The 10-acre 1.8MW site helps with power for Mackie's to produce its ice cream and chocolate, complementing its four wind turbines, which total 3MW. The mix is efficient because the solar panels are able to provide more power in the summer when wind levels tend to drop. The sum effect is that Mackie’s business is 80% powered by it’s own renewable energy.

Managing director Mac Mackie, one of three sibling owners, said: “It's nice to be able to talk positively about the weather in Scotland for a change! April really was out the ordinary and the solar farm's spike in energy production shows the extent of that.

“We also had a record in February. We could be looking at our best ever year for solar energy.”

Built in 2015 by Loch Lomond based Absolute Solar and Wind, at the time of completion the Mackie's array was Scotland’s largest and first solar farm.

Along with initiatives like the on-site production of a vast majority of its packaging, the firm is already 'carbon positive' and aims to become 100% self-sufficient in renewable energy this year. A £4.5 million investment in eco-freezers powered with ammonia plant and biomass, is set to be one of Europe's greenest and most innovative refrigeration systems.

Mac added: “The new freezer will make a tremendous difference to our energy requirements, the efficiency of the new system means that we should cut our energy use by up to 80%. It’s an exciting development in other ways too – the new refrigeration system along new ice cream filling equipment will increase our production capacity and enable us to look at making new types of ice cream.”

As well as the solar farm and wind turbines on the farm, Mackie’s has a smaller array of solar panels fitted on the byre roof to power the milking systems and a further 400 kW of heating power for the office and farm houses comes from a biomass plant, ensuring a good mix of renewable power types.

The company's 'sky to scoop' ethos sees it create everything from milk to its packaging on site. Mackie's still produces all its ice cream and chocolate on the farm, with fresh milk and cream ingredients from the farm's own dairy herd. The farm and ice cream production teams have been able to keep working during the Covid-19 crisis, implementing new distancing and hygiene procedures to supply ongoing demand from customers at home, which has increased in the recent sunny weather.