Planning permission has been granted for a controversial solar farm in West Cork, despite opposition from a local community group.
The Finnis-Mishells Solar Free Valley Group is disappointed at the ruling by An Bord Pleanála to sanction the development of a 13.1-megawatt solar farm at a large site 4km north-west of Bandon.
It had appealed the decision of Cork County Council to give the green light for a 25-year period to the project, which is on a 40-hectare site in the townlands of Finnis and Mishells.
Approval has now been confirmed by the planning appeals authority to allow Dublin-based renewable energy firm BNRG Neoen Holdings to develop the solar farm, which will consist of 40,000 solar panels. The development — which will be one of the largest solar farms in Cork — will cost €13m and provide energy to power the equivalent of 1,750 homes.
Subject to compliance with 10 conditions, An Bord Pleanála said it believes the proposed solar farm will “not seriously injure the amenities of the area” and “would not be prejudicial to public health”.
The Finnis-Mishells Solar Free Valley Group’s chairman, Michael Walsh, said local people were disappointed that their appeal had been rejected: “We felt common sense would prevail and that the use of prime land would not be allowed happen, when there is an abundance of poor-quality land for such an enterprise and that time will prove us right.”
The group claimed the development would turn the picturesque Ballymahane River Valley into “a large-scale industrial zone”.
Mr Walsh expressed hope that BNRG Neoen Holdings would take on board comments of the Minister for Communications, Climate Change and the Environment, Richard Bruton, and his predecessor, Denis Naughten, about the importance of solar-farm developers working with communities and giving something back to them, either through subsidised electricity or by providing solar panels for local public buildings, such as schools.
BNRG was founded by David Maguire, a former Environmental Protection Agency official who is also chairman of the Irish Solar Energy Association. It has valued its investment in renewable energy in Ireland at €275m. The company has completed and sold 44 solar farms, worth €230m, in Britain, Northern Ireland, Bulgaria and Greece, while it is also developing new projects in the US and Australia, estimated at €693m.