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Bertie's solar energy firm seeking €20m from investors for new plants

Scientia Solar, the renewable energy firm chaired by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, is thought to be seeking up to €20m in funding from new investors to build new solar power plants, according to sources.

The Dublin firm is backed by Ashleaf shopping centre developers Frank and Gary Smith; Brendan Byrne, one of the co-founders of Ross McParland estate agents; and Northern Ireland builder Ivor Dougan.

Mr Ahern and company did not respond to queries from the Sunday Independent.

Scientia Solar, which has just opened a new office in London, built and now operates the three Capri solar farms in Puglia, Southern Italy. The solar farms are connected to the Italian national electricity grid.

Mr Ahern's company is aiming to produce 100MW of power in Italy through solar farms and is working on plans to build the IFN-IAMP solar farm network in Abruzzo and Lombardia in Northern Italy. "Project Arzaio" will see the construction of other operations in Abruzzo and Lazio.

It is thought the majority of funds raised from investors will be used to develop these projects.

Scientia Solar is being advised by Watson, Farley Williams.

Italy's solar-powered energy sector has boomed since 2005, when the government introduced a massive subsidy programme to encourage development. However, earlier this month the Italian government announced plans to drastically reduce the level of grants available to solar companies.

Mr Ahern stood down from the board of property developer Gerry O'Hare's Parker Green International in 2008.

He is also involved in British Virgin Islands-registered International Forestry Fund, which is a joint venture between Swiss asset management group Helvetia and the Irish fund IFS Asset Managers.

He has a pension of €156,000 per year on top of a €389,000 lump sum due on leaving the Dail.

Sunday Indo Business