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Solar ‘transformation’ on the way as 66 new solar farms approved to supply electricity


Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the approvals would build on Ireland’s strong wind base

Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the approvals would build on Ireland’s strong wind base

Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the approvals would build on Ireland’s strong wind base

A SURGE in solar farm developments has been given the go-ahead after 66 projects were approved to supply power to the electricity grid.

They are among 80 successful applicants of 130 projects that applied for contracts under the latest Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction.

RESS gives them a guaranteed price for electricity for up to 16 years, providing backers the financial incentive to build.

Solar energy dominated the process, with onshore wind farms comprising just 14 of the approved projects.

The selected projects have been provisionally approved by Eirgrid pending formal acceptance by the Government in the coming weeks.

Not all are expected to proceed as investment decisions may change, but all have secured planning permission.

If all were completed, they would create a combined capacity to produce 1,534 megawatts (MW) of solar electricity and 414MW from wind – a 20pc increase on renewable generation capacity currently available.

Conall Bolger, chief executive of the Irish Solar Energy Association, described the results for solar as “transformational”.

There is so far just one solar farm in the republic supplying to the national grid, the Millvale project which opened last month in Co Wicklow.

“Ireland has tremendous potential to deliver a significant amount of solar energy as demonstrated by the volumes clearing in this auction,” Mr Bolger said.

“If this RESS 2 capacity is delivered it would deliver enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 350,000 Irish homes.”

Climate Action Minister Eamon Ryan said the approvals would build on Ireland’s strong wind base and diversify electricity supply through solar.

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“Renewable energy delivered under the scheme will shield consumers from high price and reduce our dependency on imported fossil fuels in the context of the phasing out of Russian energy imports across the EU,” he said.

The 66 provisionally approved solar projects are spread mainly across the east, south east, south and midlands but there are also a few in the west.

The 14 new wind farms are in the midlands, west and south west.

Noel Cunniffe, chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland, welcomed the results but warned the electricity grid needed urgent reinforcement to enable it carry power from the new and diverse generation sources.

“The weaker the grid, the more power is lost, forcing projects to charge more for the power they can produce,” he said.

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