Photo credit: Statkraft Ireland
Irish Solar Energy Association
New planning guidelines for the delivery of solar farms in Ireland have been published today by the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA). The best practice guidance, which has been drafted following extensive consultation with industry and planning officials, aims to bring greater clarity and certainty to planning around this form of essential energy infrastructure.
Ireland has ambitious targets to reach 8GW of solar power by the end of the decade. Despite the first Irish solar farms only connecting to the national grid in May 2022 there is now a total of 17 connected today, highlighting the need to deliver a significant increase in the coming years. ISEA state that ensuring an efficient planning process will be essential to delivering upon this target.
Published by ISEA Best Practice Guidance Report for Large Scale Solar Energy Development was researched by environmental consultants Fehily Timoney and Company (FT) and supported by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). The Guidelines encompass a range of areas such as community engagement, archaeological assessments and glint and glare. It is designed to guide both applicants and planners with a unified approach.
Speaking on the publication of the guidance ISEA CEO Conall Bolger said “Solar farms typically have a have a high approval rate in the planning process. However, a lack of resources among local authorities and inconsistencies between planning bodies can lead to delays in processing applications."
"In producing these guidelines, we aim to address the challenges that both applicants and planners face to deliver higher quality applications that can processed in a more efficient manner in future.”
SEAI CEO William Walsh said “Solar energy will play a major part in Ireland reaching its decarbonisation targets. Stakeholders have a responsibility to ensure that there are clear approaches in place around planning and consenting for renewable energy projects. These guidelines are an example of where industry and the state can work together to identify possible barriers and create solutions to accelerate the development and deployment of solar energy."
Jim Hughes, from the report author’s Fehily Timoney and Company said “These guidelines have been underpinned by extensive consultation across the industry. The Guidelines intend to provide a better understanding of large scale Solar PV and address perceived planning issues. These guidelines provide a framework for future planning applications helping to achieve continuity in application documents and decisions.
The guidance document was published at the Solar Ireland 2023 conference in Cork this morning attended by over 450 industry figures.