Scheme paves the way for Cork solar farms
Projects to move forward after Government gives approval for 'green' support initiative
The head of the Cork-based company planning to build a dozen solar farms across the county, including seven across the north and mid-Cork regions, has said he anticipated the first would-be fully operational by the end of next year.
Plans by Amarenco Solar to build the facilities have been in limbo pending the outcome of deliberations on a subsidy scheme for renewable energy.
However, news that the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) had been given governmental approval has prompted Amarenco CEO, former Board Gáis chief John Mullins, to commit to the commencement of the construction phase for the planned solar farms.
The new scheme has been designed to diversify the State's renewable energy production and enhance Ireland's chances of meeting key EU targets.
These include that 16 per cent of Ireland's energy needs to come from 'green' sources by 2020. The scheme has also been designed to ensure Ireland's contribution to achieving an EU-wide target of 32 per cent renewable energy by 2030.
Under the scheme, which it is proposed will be funded through the Public Service Obligation Levy, regular auctions will be held to allow the State to take advantage of falling technology costs. Subject to EU approval, it is hoped that the first auction will take place around this time next year and will prioritise 'shovel-ready' projects.
This will suit Amarenco as the company has already secured planning permission for 11 solar farms in Cork, including two in Castlelyons and at sites in Mallow, Kanturk, Whitechurch, Crookstown and Inniscarra. Each of them will incorporate around 22,200 photovoltaic panels on ground-mounted frames and once operational will generate five-mega-watts of power, enough to power approximately 1,000 homes, which will be fed back into the national grid.
Mr Mullins said the announcement by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughton that the scheme had been approved was "very welcome".
"It now brings Ireland in line with most other European Union nations in terms of an official recognition of solar energy, which is the fastest growing renewable energy sector on the planet," said Mr Mullins.
"Amarenco has been calling for this support for some considerable time, and we will now commence our preparatory work for the installation of solar farms to provide Ireland's electricity grid with much needed clean electricity," he added.
It is believed that each solar farm will cost in the region of €7 million to build, with each one creating up to 40 jobs during the construction phase and a number permanent roles once they are up and running. The normal build time for each farm will be three months, with Mr Mullins saying "we expect to see our first one operational by the end of 2019".
The Cork network of solar farms is not the only one planned by Amarenco, who aim to have similar facilities operational in Kerry, Waterford, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny by 2019.
The company also operates five huge solar farms in France.