Bord na Móna and the ESB are battling to secure planning permission for a large-scale solar farm that will have the capacity to power 30% of all households in Co Kildare each year.
Last month, Kildare County Council refused planning permission for Bord na Móna Powergen Ltd and ESB Wind Development Ltd’s Timahoe North solar farm project at a 494-acre site 6.5km north of the village of Allenwood over concerns for the EU protected habitat, wet heath.
In refusing planning, the council told the two semi-state energy companies that there was an absence of sufficient robust scientific data to exclude the presence of wet heath in the footprint of the development and, if present, the wet heath could permanently be lost as a result of the planned solar farm.
The energy companies have appealed the council decision to Bord Pleanála and consultants for the joint venture have said that no wet heath has been recorded on the site of the proposed solar farm project.
The appeal contends that the decision of the council “is of national significance as it, in effect, rules out the development of a potentially significant renewable energy development which will contribute to achieving national targets and objectives”.
The applicants state that 150 people would be employed during the 25-month construction phase and the solar farm will be operational for 35 years.
They said the proposal w ill displace 43,729 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year from the traditional energy mix here.
The proposal involves a 92.45MW solar farm, on Bord na Móna land, which will produce sufficient energy to power 22,000 households.
Consultants for the applicants said that Ireland is falling behind in meeting its 2020 targets for renewable energy and the proposed solar arm “is of significant importance to Ireland by helping Ireland to address these challenges as well as addressing the country’s over-dependence on imported fossil fuels”.
In the appeal, the consultants reject the council contention that there wasn’t sufficient data in the application to allay the council’s concerns for the wet heath.
The consultants said that the development footprint at Timahoe North has completely avoided areas of uncut raised bog and is confined to cut-over bog that has been revegetated over 30 years.
A decision is due on the appeal at the end of March.