Solar energy development will have power to provide electricity to 2,000 homes

A Cork-based renewable energy firm has lodged plans with Clare Co Council for a 43,500sq/m solar energy farm outside Ennistymon.

The solar energy application covers a 38-acre site, about 6km to the north-east of the town. Applicant, Reeve Wave Ltd which is based at Lissarda, Co Cork, has already lodged plans for solar energy farms in Co Tipperary and Co Cork.

The commercial solar energy market here is still in its infancy with applications granted for a 10MW solar facility in Co Kildare in June, a 5MW solar facility in Co Wexford, while planning has also been granted for a solar farm at Knockglass town lands, Coachford, Co Cork, and another at Lissarda, near Macroom.

There are no operational solar photovoltaic developments in Ireland as yet.

However, the market is expected to grow in the coming years due to recent technological advancements and cost reductions.

Consultants for the new venture, McCarthy Keville O’Sullivan, state there is enough sunlight in Ireland for such ventures. In planning documents lodged with the council, the consultants state “Irish solar irradiation rates compare favourably with the UK where solar photovoltaic developments have become commonplace.

“A common misconception is that the Irish climate does not provide sufficient quantities of direct sunlight. Although direct sunlight is not required for modern solar photovoltaic systems, it should be noted solar irradiation rates in parts of Ireland are 78% of levels found in Madrid.

The consultants say that “modern solar panels do not require direct sunlight. Recent technological advancements mean panels can operate to an acceptable efficiency rate, even on cloudy days.”

The Ennistymon plan will have the power to provide electricity to 2,000 homes and consist of 27,200 solar panels. The panels will have a maximum height above ground of 3.5m.

The planning documents say examples of planning permissions in counties Cork, Wexford and Kildare demonstrate solar photovoltaic developments are emerging in Ireland. The consultants argue that planning decision relating to the other proposed solar projects “confirms that solar developments are supported by national and local planning policies and objectives”.

The proposed development in Clare, they say, will not be obtrusive or visually dominant and will not have a significant impact on local or wider visual amenity. The planning documents also state government policy favours other renewable energies. “The reasons for this are considered to relate to constraints in solar technology, perceptions regarding insufficient sunlight and appropriate environmental conditions in the Irish climate and prohibitive costs.

“In recent years, there are significant technological advancements that have addressed previous constraints and now solar photovoltaic is a realistic, sustainable and cost-effective energy source not just in Ireland, but worldwide.”

The Irish Solar Energy Association says the costs of solar have reduced by 42% since 2011 and that 500MW of solar capacity can easily be installed by 2020.

A decision is due on the application next month.


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