Friday 22 September 2017

Plan for massive €35m solar farm moves a step closer

Fingal County Council has asked for additional information about the project. Photo: PA
Fingal County Council has asked for additional information about the project. Photo: PA
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Plans for what would be Ireland's biggest solar energy farm appear to be on track, despite Fingal County Council expressing some concerns about the huge project.

Dublin-based firm JBM Solar Developments is hoping to build a massive 25-megawatt farm - costing in the region of more than €35m - at a 42-hectare (105-acre) site just a few kilometres from Dublin Airport. It would involve the placement of tens of thousands of photovoltaic (PV) modules.

It's five times bigger than the typical 5MW solar farm site and would be big enough to provide power for 5,500 homes.

Fingal County Council has asked for additional information about the project, but its concerns centre on issues such as surface water runoff and ensuring that a complete archaeological survey is undertaken before any permission is granted.

The council also wants JBM Solar to submit a revised glint-and-glare study to take into account the new runway and control tower being built at Dublin Airport, which is just a few kilometres away.

The site at Kilsallaghan is known locally as 'The Fruit Farm'. It also adjoins the 150-acre site of the proposed Thornton Hall Prison Campus.

That was acquired by the State in 2005 for €30m, with plans approved by then Justice Minister Michael McDowell to build a 1,400-cell prison to replace Mountjoy Prison in Dublin city centre.

The plan was shelved in 2011 and the site has since been used by the Prison Service for growing vegetables.

The PV panels that will be used on the solar farm will have a total surface area of 155,192 sq m (1.67m sq ft).

The developers reckon the solar farm will result in 10,600 tonnes of carbon emissions being eliminated every year, and 318,000 tonnes over its 30-year lifespan.

"The site has been chosen due to its southern aspect, natural contours and the particular screening benefits available at this site, which minimise potential for impacts on the surrounding environment," according to consultants for JBM Solar Developments.

JBM Solar is an independent solar energy developer. It has established large-scale solar farm projects in England and Wales.

"JBM Solar and its funding partners have combined experience of developing in excess of 300MW of solar projects across Europe and North America," its consultants added.

JBM Solar has also applied for planning permission to build solar farms at locations including Co Laois and Co Wicklow.

The firm is owned by UK-based company PP Solar Projects. Its directors are Mark Jones and Philip Pels. Mr Pels is the chief executive of PP Asset Management, which was founded to manage a family property portfolio.

The planned solar farm in north Dublin would be one of the largest ever developed by the firm. Only a 46MW farm in Oxfordshire is larger.

There's just one operational solar farm on the island of Ireland. The 5MW farm in Co Antrim became operational last summer.

But there's been a huge number of planning applications for solar farms around the country. Firms such as Amarenco, the energy company founded by former Bord Gáis boss John Mullins, is among those hoping to build solar farms here. It recently signed a joint-venture agreement with Infracapital, the investment arm of Prudential-owned M&G Investments, to roll out as much as €1bn worth of wind and solar projects over the next five years.

The ESB is also preparing to get involved in the sector.

Irish Independent

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