The bright idea with income potential for many farmers
Standing in the bog of Allen near Lullymore recently, I was struck by the vast potential on the cutaway sections for the installation of solar panels.
No doubt Bord na Mona is thinking along the same lines. Burning fossil fuels from our bogs to generate electricity is being phased out and our increasing need for power requires better systems that won't pollute the atmosphere or use up finite resources.
Even our co-fired power stations will require vast amounts of wood chip, but this will have to be imported from the US and elsewhere.
Solar panels are in the news these days with advertisements appearing in the farming press, encouraging landowners to sign up for what is an interesting and potentially attractive alternative land use.
Signing leases is a complex affair and one must tread carefully before committing to such a long-term agreement. Having seen a few of the proposed agreements, in general the term involved is for an initial 25 years, with the tenant reserving the right to renew the lease for a further 25 year period.
The agreements on offer seem to, more or less, replicate similar offers to lease land for wind turbines and are undoubtedly financially attractive. Much depends on the financial strength and track record of the proposed tenant company.
The IFA should consider producing an appropriate contract for use by members similar to the standard Law Society Conveyance used for house purchase. Long-term contracts of this kind should perhaps be backed by a bond to protect the landowner if the tenant goes bankrupt.
Considering the lease is potentially for 50 years, this is one heck of a long time to tie up 20 acres or more, so one needs to be sure that every aspect of such an agreement has been carefully read and all potential loopholes examined.