Solar farm planned despite Limerick's rainy reputation

 Local residents have 'serious reservations' and are concerned about lack of public consultation

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

Solar farm planned despite Limerick's rainy reputation

An example of a section of a solar farm in a rural setting supplied by RenGen Technologies who are behind the Annacotty proposal

AN Irish company specialising in renewable energy has lodged a planning application for a 30 acre solar farm in county Limerick.

The plans of RenGen Technologies would bring a wry smile to the face of the late Frank McCourt, who famously wrote in Angela’s Ashes of the interminable rain in the city.

Permission has been sought for Annacotty Solar Farm at Grange Upper, Annacotty close to the R506 and 500m south of the  business park.

Regarding how a solar farm works in an area not known for its blue skies, a RenGen spokesperson said solar energy comes from the sun and solar panels collect heat from sunlight.

“Photovoltaic (PV) energy is one form of solar energy and is the system used in this solar farm. It is a non-mechanical device system using semi-conducting silicon only panels. Sunlight on a solar panel generates direct current (DC), a solar inverter converts it into alternating current (AC).

“Cloudy skies and fog does reduce effectiveness but will produce electricity at a reduced rate. Panels are positioned to maximize exposure for the effective generation of electricity,” they said.

The benefits locally will be cheap electricity to the grid and help to provide increased control over Ireland’s electricity supply and costs, they add.

“It provides a stable income to the farmer on whose lands it is situated. Local contractors and service providers will be incorporated where possible into the plan,” said the spokesperson of the Ennis-based company.

“ It will contribute to limiting carbon emissions and assist the country in meeting binding EU electricity targets from renewable resources,” the spokesperson added.

However, residents in the local community have expressed major concerns regarding the proposed development. Around 50 attended a meeting in Ahane GAA clubhouse last week and afterwards issued a statement to the Leader.

“Residents in the immediate area are concerned with the absence of appropriate information, communication or any public consultation prior to the lodging of a planning application with the local authority.  

“Residents have serious reservations about the extent of the solar farm project which has a clear impact on homeowners living adjacent to the development.

”Also, there are possible impacts for the neighbouring areas of Annacotty, Ballysimon and Castletroy arising from glint and glare reflections associated with solar farm developments. Householders in these areas have not been considered or consulted on these matters.

“We will be calling a further public meeting to establish the views of residents, to scrutinise any new application to the planning authority and to take whatever advice is appropriate,” reads the statement.

Regarding concerns about solar farms, the RenGen spokesperson said solar farms are an “immense resource for generating clean sustainable electricity”.

“There is low visual impact, no noise, waste or toxins generated. It is environmentally friendly and supports wildlife. Natural habitats can flourish and biodiversity levels can increase. Maintenance is low and land use is reversible within an agreed time frame.

“The solar farm will not affect the integrity of any local populations of plants or animals. There are no priority habitats identified on this site and best practice work methods will be deployed.

“No dwellings will experience reflections from panels. Negligible ‘glint and glare’ effects are predicted for road users with the maturation of landscaping screen on the western side of the site boundary,” they say.

It is one of a number of sites chosen by the company throughout Munster to provide clean electricity generation and if granted planning the energy generated will be fed into the national grid. Maximum energy generation by the panels will be limited to 5MW.

The solar farm will be used for a maximum of 25 years before the land is returned to its owner in the same condition in which it was first received.

If granted planning there will be two phases of activity – construction and operational.

The construction phase will last from eight to 10 weeks and will be carried out by a specialised team.

“Very careful work methods will be deployed in the preparation and construction of the facility. The construction of a solar farm involves the placing of panels on steel framing anchored to the ground with minimal ground disturbance. 

“Once the solar farm is commissioned and operational, the panels installed will  convert the sun’s energy during daylight hours into clean electricity. There is minimal maintenance with the monitoring and performance of plant done remotely.

“RenGen intends working with an Irish company in the construction phase of this and other sites, maintaining up to 10 jobs for the period of the construction. “

The on-going operation of each site will require engineering and ground maintenance sustaining two to three full-time and long-term positions,” concluded the RenGen Technologies spokesperson.