Installing solar panels on just 0.2 per cent of all agricultural land would enable Ireland to meet its renewable energy targets, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) told TDs and senators today.
“Our estimate of the necessary solar contribution to meet Ireland’s renewable target entails using the equivalent of about one fifth of one percent of Ireland’s total agricultural land,” Conall Bolger, chief executive of the ISEA, the solar lobby group, said in a submission to the Oireachtas committee on agriculture, food and the marine.
The majority of land with solar panels installed can still be used for agricultural purposes, the submission said. “Solar installation does not prevent the use of the land for agriculturally relevant purposes such as sheep grazing. Dependent on the equipment layout, international experience suggests that 55-80 per cent of the land under lease could be available for use.”
One fifth of Ireland’s overall electricity needs can be met by solar between now and 2030, more than double the 2.5 gigawatt target for solar energy in the Climate Action Plan, he said.
However, Teagasc, the agriculture and food development authority said in its submission to the same committee that less than 2 per cent of dairy farms have a solar panel system installed.
There is “tremendous” potential for solar in the agricultural sector, Bolger added, but taxation issues, network access and a lack of support structures are putting off farmers.
Installing solar panels on agricultural land could be made more attractive for farmers by connecting electricity producers directly to consumers, he said.
At present electricity customers sell direct to the national grid which supplies all customers.
Allowing energy producers to connect to energy users directly without going through the grid could provide quicker routes for users to connect to renewable sources of energy. It would allow large energy users such as agri-food facilities to satisfy much of their demand from green sources, Bolger added.