Farmers could benefit from using solar PV energy, but are slow to invest further without clarity on feed-in tariffs and the Government’s grid connection policy, the IFA says.
IFA president, Joe Healy, said while up to 15,000 acres of farmland in Ireland are under some form of solar contract, questions remain to be addressed on the feed-in-tariff to be applied to solar energy, grid connection, farm-scale projects, and community participation in solar development projects.
Addressing IFA’s solar seminar in Portlaoise, Mr Healy said: “The European Commission will next week set out Ireland’s emission reduction targets to be delivered by the year 2030 for the non-ETS sector, which includes farming.
"Solar energy has significant mitigation potential. The Government must come forward with greater policy certainty to facilitate this, as well as to deliver on our 2020 renewable energy obligations.
“The use of farmland for solar PV could supplement and strengthen farm incomes, providing some level of guaranteed income to allow farmers. However, more clarity is needed around solar development so farm families can make informed decisions.”
The IFA notes solar PV accounts for 6.3% of all energy requirements in Germany come from solar generation, while that figure is 9% in Italy.
It also said Ireland must learn lessons from previous mistakes with renewable energies, and that all stakeholders need to be heard in the National Energy Forum announced by Government last December.
James Murphy, IFA renewables chairman, said while there are good reasons to be optimistic about solar energy in Ireland, farmers should exercise caution in signing up to any agreement.
He cautioned the use of exclusivity agreements by solar companies represent a one-way bet in which farmers take on all of the uncertainty and developers get all the commitments they need, usually at no cost.
Meanwhile, Michael Bradley, CEO of Irish renewable firm Solar 21, said he believed farmers account for the bulk of the 329 solar applications made to ESB Networks in 2015; ESB connects power generators to the national grid.
Just two applications were made in 2014.
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