Solar farms surge as 225 applications made in two years
Fall in cost of technology fuels widespread demand from renewables firms
There has been a dramatic surge in the number of planning applications for solar farms in the last two years.
Analysis of applications shows 225 applications have been received by local authorities since June 2015. No applications were in the system before then.
The analysis was carried out by PHR - a planning and research consultancy that specialises in data analysis and visualisation - using its insights to guide decision makers on market conditions in sectors including renewable energy and healthcare.
"There is just over 1.5 gigawatts of solar energy within the planning pipeline," PHR director Colin Broderick told the Sunday Independent.
"The capacity in the pipeline has grown rapidly with the first application being submitted in Wexford in June of 2015. Since then, 224 other applications have been lodged to local and national planning authorities. The average size of schemes to date is around 10 hectares with a generating capacity of up to five megawatts," Broderick added.
The uplift in activity has been fuelled by a drop in the price of solar technology in recent years.
The analysis, covering the period to the beginning of this month, shows that Cork is the county with the highest number of applications at 38. Wexford is second with 35, with Meath in third at 22.
The most active company is Highfield Solar, the figures show, with 27 applications. Elgin Energy has 21, Power Capital Renewable Energy has 17, and John Mullins' Amarenco has 14.
Of the 225 applications, 82 were granted by local authorities and seven refused. Of those that went to An Bord Pleanala, 13 were granted and three refused.
Thirty-one are currently under appeal and decisions are pending in 18 cases.
The largest applications are in Meath, with Highfield Solar having been granted permission for a 150-hectare farm.
That was subsequently appealed to An Bord Pleanala. Last week the Sunday Independent revealed that Lightsource, headed by Antrim man Nick Boyle has applied for a 129-hectare project, also in Meath.
Gaelectric - perhaps best known for activities in wind - is also active in the sector.
It has recently had an application for a project spanning 62 hectares, at Ballyboughal in North County Dublin, rejected by Fingal County Council.
The council cited "a lack of guidance at national, regional and local level" in its reasons for the refusal.
Sunday Indo Business