Wednesday 18 September 2019

€7m solar project by Gaelectric is blocked

€7m project which would have set 'unwanted precedent' latest to be stymied

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John Mulligan

John Mulligan

A €7m solar energy project planned by Gaelectric on a 154-acre site in north Dublin has been rejected.

The local council said it would set an unwanted precedent and would contravene a zoning objective to preserve the rural landscape.

The project is the latest from a number of solar energy firms to fall foul of local authorities around the country.

The planned Gaelectric scheme - called Mainscourt - would have cost about €6.8m to develop and would take a total of nine months to build.

The renewable energy firm told Fingal County Council that the project would have generated up to 10MW of electricity, sufficient to power about 5,300 homes a year.

But despite extensive engagement with the local council and residents in the area, the plans have been rejected.

"Due to its scale, and notwithstanding the mitigation measures proposed, the proposal would alter significantly the prevailing land use in the area, which is agriculture, and would represent an incongruous and dominant feature on the rural landscape," the council said.

The authority also cited the lack of a national framework on which decisions regarding solar farm developments can be based.

"There is a lack of guidance at national, regional and local level in relation to the appropriate location, scale and distribution of future proposals for solar power," it noted.

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The 'Sunday Independent' reported this week that 225 applications have been made in Ireland since June 2015 to develop solar projects.

An analysis by planning and research consultancy PHR found that there are applications being considered that would deliver just over 1.5 gigawatts of power.

This week, plans for a large solar scheme in Co Kildare were rejected by the local council.

Earlier this year, An Bord Pleanála warned that there has been a "sudden wave" of applications to build solar farms in Ireland, but that no strategic plan for development exists.

In relation to the proposed Gaelectric solar farm, Fingal County Council said that the authority is "not satisfied that the proposed development would not seriously injure the amenities of the area, and that, if permitted ... the proposed development would not be premature, pending the adoption of national, regional or local strategy or guidance for solar power".

Galeectric's CEO is Eamonn McGrath. The company is involved in a number of renewable energy projects. Last month, it opened two wind farms in Northern Ireland, built at a cost of £41m (€45m).

Irish Independent

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