Tipperary farming: solar energy scheme 'must include panels on farm sheds'

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Tipperary farming: solar energy scheme 'must include panels on farm sheds'

ICSA president Patrick Kent has said a pilot scheme promoting Micro Generation launched by Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment lacks the necessary ambition.

Under the Micro Generation scheme, domestic customers can apply for grant aid to install solar panels on their homes.

“For the scheme to have real impact, grants for solar panels on farm sheds need to be included. There is ample space available on the roofs of farm sheds around the country to accommodate enough solar panels to make a real difference in terms of generating energy, provided the goal is to enable farmers to sell surplus back to the grid.

“Farmers are more than willing to play their role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Grant aid applied to farm buildings, coupled with the option to sell back to the grid is an opportunity that should not be overlooked.

"While domestic customers would have the opportunity to reduce their annual energy bills, energy produced on the scale of farm sheds would generate far more renewable electricity than they could ever consume themselves. We need to be more ambitious,” he said.

Meanwhile, IFA Renewable Energy Project team leader Tom Short, while welcoming the announcement said that it was critical that properly funded schemes were put in place as a matter of urgency to support the development of farm scale community-based renewable energy projects that include commercial rooftop solar panels.

Mr Short said: "The successful development of renewable energy projects across much of Europe has been predicated on providing the proper financial supports as green energy generation is more expensive than that from fossil fuels."

he said that the dynamic was changing in relation to big wind and solar as technology costs continued to reduce.

However, community resistance to large scale wind projects in Ireland will cap its development while reduced solar cell efficiencies due to our latitude will limit its scope for the production of renewable energy from solar panels, said Mr Short.

"If Ireland is to meet its EU renewable targets and address security of supply issues it is important that the full range of renewable technologies available are deployed and adequately supported under grant aid schemes," he said.

“One of the main flaws with the switch away from feed in tariffs to an auction-type system under the recently announced RESS scheme is that it favours larger scale projects, particularly wind, to the exclusion of small to medium farm scale community-based projects," said Mr Short.

He pointed out that farm scale community-based projects delivered significant value added to rural communities as they utilised local resources, including labour. This would result in a significant spin-off into local communities, as has been the experience across many EU Member States. In addition, farm-based projects will help to decarbonise food production.

"The financial viability of medium sized farm scale community-based projects is very much predicated on certainty around income generation. Financial institutions and investors will not become involved in or back off these projects under an auction-based system as it fails to provide a guaranteed cashflow," he said.