Irish Solar Energy Association
21 Dec 2022
Ireland embraces solar on shortest day of the year
The Climate Action Plan describes a pathway to capitalise on Ireland’s solar potential and build the zero-carbon power system of the future, the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) has said.
Welcoming the additional climate and renewable energy ambitions laid out of the Climate Action Plan 2023, ISEA has said that their rapid delivery over the coming months and years is more critical than ever.
2022 was a breakthrough year for Irish solar, according to ISEA CEO Conall Bolger. "After many years of talking about Ireland's solar potential, it has now materialised.
“We have seen the first solar farms connecting to the national grid, with 640MW of utility scale solar energising or under construction, another 1,534MW contracted to deliver by 2025, and a further 5,000MW of projects holding planning permission.
“Other milestones have included the introduction of payments to householders for solar they send back to the grid and removing many arduous planning rules. Homeowners have responded to these incentives, and the failings of fossil markets, by rapidly increasing their installations.
“In the first eleven months of this year, Irish homeowners had nearly 17,000 residential rooftop systems installed on their rooftops. This is more than twice what was installed last year and represents 36% of all registered systems. This sector is on an upward trend.”
Included in the plan, ISEA welcomes the announcement made by Government to increase the target for Solar PV capacity by 2030 to 8GW, up from the previous goal of 5.5GW, with an accelerated target of 5GW by 2025.
Speaking about this increase, Bolger said, “In the latest update to Ireland’s Climate Action Plan, Minister Ryan has confirmed an accelerated target for solar energy and this is a challenge we are happy to accept.
“This new target reinforces just how important the generation of solar PV energy is going to be in helping us decarbonise our electricity supply.
“It recognises that solar at scale, working in tandem with wind and storage, will be critical in moving Ireland towards its zero-carbon future.”
ISEA also welcomes the recognition of the value of private wire arrangements and hybrid sites to maximising renewable generation.
Private wires are private localised electricity grids, and they enable energy users to connect directly to the source of electricity generation by bypassing the national grid. This approach is in widespread use in Northern Ireland, Britain and many EU countries, but the current legislation in Ireland is very restrictive, making private wires impractical in the majority of cases.
“Adopting a more progressive approach to private wires would allow those large energy users, including data centres and manufacturers, to connect directly to their own renewable energy sources.”
Bolger says there are multiple benefits in allowing this, “it would be far faster for the energy users in question: enabling them to satisfy more of their own demand without drawing on the wider network so helping with our current security of supply challenges; and facilitating faster deployment of renewable capacity into the system.
“As many solar projects tend to be close to potential demand, there is a substantial opportunity for scaling up what we are connecting. A consultation on this policy change has been long promised, we urgently need to progress towards its implementation.”
Hybrid sites involve more than one technology sharing a single connection point to the national grid, for example a solar farm and a battery, or a solar farm and a wind farm.
Bolger noted there are a high number of hybrid sites already under development and awaiting the policy and regulatory push to implement them. “There are over 450MW of solar and battery projects working through the process to connect, with more progressing through the planning process.
“While further network investment is crucial for our transition to renewables, making more efficient use of the network we have is also essential. The regulatory barriers to hybrid sites need to be removed to deliver on the Minister’s vision. We welcome the references in the Climate Action Plan to making progress on this particular front.”
One area of concern was the absence of detailed policy to help the non-residential sector in making the solar transition. Bolger said: “delivery of the policies to support non-residential users, while not a perfect instrument, would fill in a missing piece of the policy puzzle for non-residential rooftop users and communities.
“In the current high energy price world, businesses large and small are seeing payback periods of two years from solar systems. That said, policy can be a powerful prompt. We understand that a regulatory review needs to be concluded, and we would urge that it be expedited.”
Reinforcing that urgency of delivery was required, Bolger said: “The key part of the policy’s title is “Action”. Delivery of a solar revolution in line with the pathway in the plan is essential. The industry is primed. We have the projects and customer interest. Now, it’s about removing those remaining barriers and unleashing the potential of a brighter future.”