Heatwave sunshine could have powered 500,000 homes

The Irish solar industry is losing out during the heatwave due to the lack of Government support even as records were being broken for energy production in the UK.

According to the Irish Solar Energy Association, more than 500,000 homes would have basked in renewable solar energy over the past two weeks if the Government had put in place the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) which has been in development by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) for the past three years.

RESS is intended to build on a previous scheme, the Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) programme which ran until December 2015 and guaranteed a minimum price for electricity produced by wind and biomass projects for a 15-year period but none for the solar industry.

“While Ireland has delayed introducing a support scheme, the UK has energised over 12,000MW of solar,” said Anne Arnold, communications and PR manager for Elgin Energy and ISEA spokesperson.

“Like with any new industry, solar energy requires a certain level of support. The peat industry is currently being subsided at a cost of €100m per year — which is both economically and environmentally damaging.”

ISEA is calling for a support mechanism to be introduced providing €25m per year to assist the deployment of solar in Ireland.”

While Ireland dawdles, in the UK solar records are being broken. From June 21-28,533GWh (gigawatt hours) of power was produced from solar and, for the first time, solar output exceeded 8GW (gigawatts), enough to power almost 2m homes. On June 23, rooftop and ground mount solar were the No 1 source of electricity, outperforming both coal and gas and accounting for 27% of the UK’s energy mix.

Currently, in Ireland, 1000MW (about 5,000 acres) of solar projects have planning permission. According to the ISEA, if those solar farms had been built, their output over the past two weeks would have powered over 500,000 homes and offset more than 40,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

“Solar farms can be installed in a very short timeframe as documented in Northern Ireland where the largest solar in Northern Ireland, a 46MW project in Co Antrim, was built on 200 acres in four months,” said Ms Arnold.

Due to lack of Government support, no solar farms have been energised in Ireland to date.

“Everyone is aware of Ireland’s pending failure to meet 2020 targets and its reputation as a climate change laggard,” said the chief executive of ISEA, Michael McCarthy.

”DCCAE needs to actively facilitate the deployment of renewables as pledged by government in Project 2040. If we are to have any chance of meeting the 2030 targets action must be taken now,” he said.

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