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Wednesday 20 September 2017

Plans for massive 300ac solar farm in Meath

Project would be second largest approved in Ireland if given green light

'Meath County Council last year granted planning permission, with conditions attached, to Highfield Solar for a 150-hectare solar farm.' (stock image)
'Meath County Council last year granted planning permission, with conditions attached, to Highfield Solar for a 150-hectare solar farm.' (stock image)
'Meath County Council last year granted planning permission, with conditions attached, to Highfield Solar for a 150-hectare solar farm.' (stock image)
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Solar energy company Lightsource is plotting a 129-hectare (318ac) solar farm in Dunboyne in Co Meath. Market sources said the project is expected to entail a €60m investment and that it would be the second largest solar farm approved by planners if it gets the go-ahead from Meath County Council.

Lightsource applied to the council for planning permission on Monday for the project.

Lightsource's head of development for Ireland, Nick Robb, said that solar energy development "can provide a major boost for the local and national economy".

He added: "Availability of a secure source of renewable energy will be an important driver for investment from multinational companies in the coming years, helping to grow employment in south Meath and beyond.

"Additionally, deploying solar energy will also help Ireland to reduce the significant fines it faces for failing to meet EU targets for renewable energy and emissions reductions."

Read also: 'I’m 77 but if I have to lie down in front of machines I’ll do it' - opposition to solar farm projects is growing

Meath County Council last year granted planning permission, with conditions attached, to Highfield Solar for a 150-hectare solar farm.

That decision has been appealed to An Bord Pleanala and a decision is due before the end of next month.

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A drop in the cost of the technology used for commercial solar farms has lifted interest in the sector in recent years.

Other companies active here include Amarenco which is run by former Bord Gais chief executive John Mullins.

Mullins has been vocal in calling for support for commercial solar farms from Government.

Currently solar farms do not receive a subsidy in the way that wind farms do and industry sources said introducing a support will be crucial if schemes are to progess beyond plans.

The Government is working on plans for a new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme and has said it is considering including solar technology as part of that.

Lightsource is run by Antrim man Nick Boyle.

Last week it signed a £1bn (€1.1bn) partnership deal with investment giant BlackRock as part of a drive to snap up solar assets.

It currently has seven solar farms in Northern Ireland, including the first commercial solar farm on the island which is located beside Belfast International Airport.

It has secured planning for a 20-megawatt solar farm in Tipperary and is going through planning for a project at Ballyvatta in east Cork.

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