Major €30m solar farm planned for Limerick

Maria Flannery

Reporter:

Maria Flannery

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maria.flannery@limerickleader.ie

Major €30m solar farm planned for Limerick

Solas Éireann is applying for planning permission for the 33,000 MWh/annum farm in the townlands of Ellaha and Ballinknockane, which are located near Barrigone, Foynes, Shanagolden and Askeaton.

PLANNING is underway for a solar farm in west Limerick that will produce enough power for almost 9,000 homes annually, and will be one of the largest solar energy developments in Ireland when finished.

Irish solar developer Solas Éireann is applying for planning permission for the 33,000 MWh/annum farm in the townlands of Ellaha and Ballinknockane, which are located near Barrigone, Foynes, Shanagolden and Askeaton.

Speaking to the Limerick Leader, managing director Guy Beesley said that the project is expected to cost up to €30m.

“There’s enough power to power about 8,700 homes annually, and that would offset 16,368 tonnes of carbon dioxide,” he said.

Energy generated on the 163-acre site will be fed into the national grid. The site is in close proximity to one of the country’s large-scale power users, Aughinish Alumina.

Construction, expected to take three months, could create up to 150 jobs. The company is hoping that work will begin in early 2019, but progress depends on the Government finalising the Renewable Energy Support scheme.

“We imagine that the peak manpower would be somewhere around 100 to 150 at any one time on site. Obviously some of it will be specialist labour, electrical installation, and the high voltage work around the grid connection. But we would imagine that it would create some local employment during the construction period,” said Mr Beesley.

“It will be an unmanned site during operations. The operations on solar farms are relatively hands off in terms of labour. There are probably only going to be a couple of jobs relating to the operation and maintenance of the plant, such as grass cutting and panel washing. The panels are washed a couple of times a year,” he said.

“It’s currently our largest application. It’s roughly 163 acres, but there are some national monuments on the site, so not all of the 163 acres will have panels on them, but that’s the fence line for the site,” added the managing director.

Planning documents revealed that there are 56 sites of archaeological and cultural significance within 1km on the site, and 25-metre buffer zones have been implemented in the design to avoid disturbing them.

The land on which the solar panels will be built is currently under an Option to Lease with two local landowners. Once the company has received the green light to go ahead, it will serve notice and enter into the lease.

According to the planning files, it is the landowners’ intention to introduce a dual use for the land.

With the solar panels in situ, the land can also be used for honey bee farming or sheep grazing.

Planning is underway around the country for several solar farms, and it is expected that this one will become the third or fourth largest in Ireland.

“Because the panels don’t sit that high above the ground, we are hoping that it’s not going to be that visible.

“It is something that has been considered in landscape and visual impact assessments,” said Mr Beesley.

Members of the public will be able to make submissions on the proposed plans until early October.