Controversial 350-acre solar farm attracts 'excellent' response from farmers
The company behind one of Ireland’s largest planned solar farms claimed they’ve had an “excellent” response from farmers seeking to lease land to the project.
Lightsource Renewable Energy Ltd has applied for permission to build a 76MW solar farm on 141 hectares of leased land near Stradbally in Co Laois. The planning application is currently with Laois Co Co and if successful, is likely to be appealed to An Bord Pleanala by residents who object to the scale of the farm and its proposed connection to a large substation planned nearby.
Lightsource is one of the leading developer of large scale ground-mounted solar farms in Europe. It built its first solar farm on the island of Ireland in 2016. The project, located beside Belfast International Airport, currently supplies approximately 27pc of the energy for the airport. Lightsource has a further eight operational solar farms in Northern Ireland.
In the Republic, Lightsource has secured planning permission for two projects. One in Monraha, near Cahir, Co Tipperay and another in east Cork. The Cork plan is currently under appeal to An Bord Pleanala. A further application has been lodged with Meath Co Co and like the Co Laois proposal, it is at the further information stage in planning. Lightsource’s projects in the Republic range from 20 MW to approximately 76MW.
A spokesman for the company said “these projects are all on leased land. We have had an excellent response from farmers who want to seek an additional income from their land. Land used for solar farming is suitable for grazing by smaller livestock, particularly sheep.”
Despite the positive feedback from farmers seeking additional income, there are some in Laois who are unhappy with the scale of the proposed development.
The Ratheniska, Timahoe, Spink Action Group has criticised the plan. In a statement, the group said, “the scale of this solar farm project is huge and based on connecting to the proposed Substation. The solar farm is larger in scale than discussed at local level and would have serious implications for the landscape in this area when combined with already proposed Eirgrid infrastructure.”
The action group has long objected to a nearby planned substation which is part of EirGrid’s Laois-Kilkenny Reinforcement Project. “The proposed Solar Farm at Loughteague is the latest project to claim that EirGrid support connecting them to the Grid via the Laois-Kilkenny reinforcement project,” the group stated.