Irish company Amarenco is planning a €200m-plus investment in 35 farms, the first five of which will be built in Co Cork.
Amarenco founder John Mullins said planning applications would be lodged shortly with Cork County Council for five solar farms, which form the first phase of the development.
Mr Mullins said that, when up and running, the solar farms will generate enough energy to power 35,000 homes and intends to sell the electricity to the national grid.
“We hoping to lodge the applications before Christmas for the solar farms which will be built at locations in west, north and east Cork,” the former chief executive of Bord Gáis said.
He said each solar farm would typically contain 24,000 solar panels. It would generate five megawatts of electricity, which is enough to power 1,000 homes.
“These will all be built on agricultural land. The sun can get underneath the panels and allow 90% of normal grass growth,” Mr Mullins said.
He said he hoped the Co Cork solar farms will become operational by late next year and the other 30 by early 2019.
“The others will be built in South Leinster and Munster in locations in Cork, Kerry, Waterford, Wexford, Carlow, and Kilkenny,” he said.
Mr Mullins said the project would create hundreds of jobs during construction.
“They are being built to ensure that Ireland meets its renewable energy targets by 2020, or face fines,” he said.
“It’s an alternative technology to wind power and I hope it will be less controversial. All the solar panels will be hidden behind hedgerows. All the sites have been carefully chosen and all the electrical cables will be ducted underground.”
The company started building its first solar farms in France two years ago.
“We have 17 of them stretching from Bordeaux to Toulouse. We will be bringing the same designs and technology to Ireland,” Mr Mullins said.
The Amarenco chief executive added that his company has just applied for a planning permission for another five mega watt solar farm near Cappoquin, Co Waterford.