Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

IFA turns up the heat in solar energy market

Louise Hogan and Darragh McCullough

Published 23/09/2015 | 02:30

The IFA is urging farmers to look at any renewable power lease very carefully
The IFA is urging farmers to look at any renewable power lease very carefully

The IFA is in advanced discussions with private renewable energy companies to set up a solar power venture.

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Tim O'Leary, vice-president of the farming body, said they hoped to have the joint venture underway by the end of the year.

He said they want to follow a different approach to the commercial approach taken with wind energy.

"Rural communities got little out of that bar the land rental," Mr O'Leary said.

"We'll be paying a leading price to farmers to rent site for solar power and we'll be giving local communities a chance to buy in, which will get them an annual community payment," he said, adding the monies could be used to maintain pitches or hire extra assistants in a school.

Mr O'Leary said they hoped to offer a minimum of 30pc of the venture to the local community.

The drive towards solar energy comes as Ireland is aiming to produce 16pc of its energy from renewables by 2020, with each percentage point that the country misses the EU targets by costing €150m in carbon credits.

Mr O'Leary said they have been urging farmers to make sure that they look at any renewable power lease extremely carefully and seek legal advice.

Interest in the sector has surged ahead of the Government's white paper on energy. UK firm Lightsource is offering a €20 lunch voucher to farmers that bring maps showing at least 30ac of owned land to their stand at this week's Ploughing Championships.

Company founder Nick Boyle said that his ompany plans to roll out projects as the Government reveals its stance on renewable energy incentives.

He said that his company had developed sites up to 4km from sub-stations or end-users, he said that most would need to be at least 30ac in size to be considered. Lightsource pays €600 to €800/ac rent annually over 25 years with index linking.

"Some sites can have a 'hard dig' across roads or other infrastructure, as opposed to a 'soft dig' through land, which all affects the cost. Also the type of electricity infrastructure such as an 11kVa line instead of a 33kVa line will affect the viability of a project," he said.

Mr Boyle also believes that solar farms will generate less controversy than wind turbines and pylons. "The panels are only 2.5m in height, so they already have 85pc consumer support."

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