Renewable energy developments: Solar farms grey area is unhelpful

It is essential that Ireland cuts its dependence on imported energy. We still bring in something around 90% of our needs, a figure that makes us more vulnerable than is prudent in an increasingly fractured world.

We also have international commitments to produce more and more energy through renewable sources.

This reality, and government subsidies, have encouraged those who wish to develop solar energy plants. In the 12 months to October, Cork County Council received 22 solar planning applications. Energy grid applications from energy companies suggest that at least 600 sites have been selected for solar farm development across the country.

Despite this great surge there is a planning lacuna that can leave communities exposed — there are no official guidelines regulating solar energy projects.

Planning Minister Simon Coveney seems unperturbed by this and has argued that current laws are sufficient to control solar projects, despite the fact that they predate any solar proposals. His optimistic view is not shared by a growing number of communities faced with solar energy plants at their doorsteps.

It is unfortunate that large projects take so very long to deliver — or reject — in this country, so it seems entirely sensible to argue that a clear set of guidelines be established to protect communities from bad development but at the same time encourage private investment in renewable energy.

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