Tuesday 20 February 2018

Amarenco subsidy call over €56m solar farm schemes

John Mullins
John Mullins
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Renewable energy firm Amarenco is ready to invest €56m in new solar farms in the south of the country, but is still waiting on a change to legislation that would subsidise the power generated from solar, just as power generated from wind is.

Amarenco, headed by former Bord Gáis boss John Mullins, pictured, said that it has just secured planning permission for additional solar farms in Cork and Waterford.

It intends to build a 5-megawatt farm at Castlelyons in north Cork on an 8.7-hectare site.

The company now has permission to build eight solar farms in the south of the country, with combined output of 40 megawatts.

The investment in each farm will be about €7m.

Mr Mullins said that the Government "must realise" that the solar farms, which use photovoltaic (PV) cells, would help Ireland achieve its binding renewable energy targets under EU rules.

"It is too late to bridge that gap in meeting these targets, but expeditious policy setting would allow these plants to be built and new jobs to be created," he said.

The ceo added that while the funds are available to invest, construction of the wind farms remains on hold until the government starts to "take solar PV seriously".

Under European Union targets, Ireland is mandated to be producing 40pc of its gross electricity consumption from renewables by 2020. Based on current projections, it appears the target will be missed by Ireland, which would result in heavy fines being levied by Brussels.

The Government plans to set a guaranteed price for solar energy this year, which will enable many solar projects to proceed.

Wind energy and peat generating stations currently share the proceeds of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) fee that electricity users pay.

About €270m of the €400m raised last year from the PSO -supported wind power generation.

A number of companies are planning to build solar farms in Ireland and are waiting for clarity on subsidies.

Investors in Amarenco include tech guru Bill McCabe's Oyster Capital, and Ian Quinn, the founder of medical device firm Creganna, who is also Amarenco's chairman.

Last month, Amarenco entered a joint-venture agreement with Infracapital, the investment arm of Prudential-owned M&G Investments, to roll out as much as €1bn worth of renewable projects over the next five years.

The new joint venture - Amarenco Infracapital Renewable Investments (AIRI) - expects to develop about 100 megawatts of greenfield energy projects a year over the next five years.

As part of the agreement, Infracapital has invested in an initial portfolio of three operational solar energy projects in France developed by Amarenco. Those sites generate 75MW of electricity and have a 20-year supply deal.

Amarenco has a total of five operational solar farms in France, accounting for most of its €250m of assets.

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