Farmers in dark on solar strategy
The IFA is looking for more clarity on the Government's solar energy policy, reports Claire Mc Cormack
FARM families need Government "clarity and certainty" on plans for solar powered energy in Ireland, IFA president Joe Healy has warned.
Speaking at a seminar on solar opportunities in farming, the IFA advised farmers to "exercise caution" when approached by privately owned solar development companies interested in leasing their land - often for up to 30 years.
The farm body stressed solar energy panels may provide an income to some struggling farmers, yet they fear some "too good to be true" leasing contracts contain red-tape that could potentially leave farmers, and their families, vulnerable and exposed for generations.
Addressing a crowd of more than 200 farmers in Portlaoise, Mr Healy highlighted the IFA's commitment to identifying opportunities that will strengthen farm incomes in the long-term.However, he is concerned that the Government is leaving farming communities in the dark when it comes to policy around solar energy.
"I want to see the necessary clarity around solar development so that farm families can make informed decisions as to whether this represents a real opportunity to diversify their farm enterprises and maximise the income that they can generate," he said.
"Developer led renewable projects in Ireland must end if we are to ensure that past mistakes are not repeated," he added. Although Mr Healy believes that solar energy has a bright future in Ireland - pointing out that the technology is working in other European countries, including Italy, Germany and the UK - he says many legal, taxation, and contractual consequences remain unanswered.
The IFA are particularly concerned about the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff (REFIT) to be applied to solar projects.