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First solar farms due next year as 63 sites given green light


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Dozens of solar farms will begin springing up across the country next year after the first contracts for the supply of energy from the sun to the national grid were announced.

A total of 63 solar farms were included in the inaugural Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) auction, along with 19 wind farms.

They range in size from around 20 acres to almost 400 acres and are located mainly in the south and east, with concentrations in Cork, Wexford and Waterford, but the west and midlands are also included. All of the farms already have planning permission and an offer of connection to the grid but must be ready by the end of 2022 to avail of the RESS.

David Maguire of the Irish Solar Energy Association said some may drop out but more than half would likely progress to completion.

"You will see construction commence in the spring, representing hundreds of millions of euros worth of investment," he said.

Mr Maguire's own company, BNRG, had three successful projects in the auction which he said were all ready to begin building.

"It's a really good day for renewable energy. It's been one of the slowest forming policies imaginable but we got here at last."

Public reaction is expected to be mixed initially. While many rural communities are aware their localities are earmarked for solar farms and some made observations during the planning process, none have had to deal with the reality of dozens of acres of photovoltaic panels on the landscape yet.

"I think some are badly sited and may cause some upset," Mr Maguire said. "But in other countries that are years ahead of us, solar is the most popular form of renewable energy among the public. People see it as a very positive technology."

Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the move put the country on the right path to achieving 70pc renewable energy by 2030.

"This will be crucial to Ireland's contribution towards an EU wide renewable energy target of 32pc by 2030 and to the 7pc per annum reduction in overall greenhouse gas emissions from 2021 to 2030," he said.

Irish Independent