Irish Solar Energy Association
10 Mar 2023
Leasing land for solar farms offers farmers an opportunity to diversify their revenue sources and earn a good income from hosting one of the solutions for the climate crisis on their land. That ownership of land is a key point; it is their land.
In our society a person is free to make use of their land in a way that they deem fit. The planning process exists to determine whether a development is a suitable use for that land, offering citizens the opportunity to participate. That process has repeatedly determined that solar is an appropriate use of that land with a 93% success rate in planning.
As per a recent article published in the Irish Farmers Journal, it is simply not accurate to claim that 3,000 acres in North County Dublin has been “lost” to solar farms. We estimate that the projects connected in 2022 would constitute an area under lease of approximately 920-1,000 acres. Panels do not cover the whole land holding, so in reality the area under panels is likely closer to 410-550 acres, one sixth of the figure quoted.
The land between panels can be used for agriculturally relevant purposes such as grazing small animals or growing food. We think there is exciting potential in dual use of land for food and solar energy production, also known as agrivoltaics.
It is national policy to combat climate change. The Government has set a target for 8GW of solar PV by 2030 which requires a concerted effort across industry, agriculture and society to deliver. We estimate that the ground mounted solar portion of that target would require 24,000-26,000 acres under lease, equivalent to 0.2% of total agricultural land or less than half the land currently used for golf courses.
Solar will constitute a big part of the solution and require a relatively small portion of relevant land area. In that context, these concerns are not reflective of the real impact of utility scale solar. They also do not take account of the positive economic and environmental benefits accruing from solar.