Clare could become the first county in Ireland to generate electricity from solar energy following the granting of planning permission to Terra Solar to develop and operate the company’s second solar farm at Firgrove in the townland of Drumline.
Construction on the solar farm is expected to commence by the middle of next year, creating 60 jobs during the 12 week build. Earlier this year Terra Solar also received planning permission for another solar farm at Ballymorris near Cratloe. Both solar farms will be similar in size and will generate enough electricity from the sun to power nearly 2,500 homes in the county. Solar power is one of the cleanest sources of energy with minimal impact on the environment as it does not emit pollution during production or consumption.
The two solar farms will remove almost 3,600 tonnes of carbon emissions from the atmosphere, helping towards the national target of generating 40% of energy used from renewable sources by 2020 and in reducing carbon emissions. Director of Terra Solar Andre Fernon commented, “We are delighted to have secured planning permission for the solar farm at Firgrove which will generate 5.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 1,200 homes.
“Clare County Council has a very clear vision and the county could become a leader nationally in meeting the challenges of climate change through renewable energy. We believe that solar energy has a big role to play in this regard and we hope to develop up to eight solar farms in Clare over the next 24 months”.
Mr Fernon says solar energy has fundamentally changed how electricity is generated at a local level as the country is no longer reliant on large power plants. He believes this will help Ireland move to a much more independent and secure form of electricity generation.
Firgrove Solar Farm has been designed to minimise the impact on flora and fauna. No noise is generated by solar panels and because they will be a maximum of 2.8 metres high, they will be rarely visible above existing hedgerows and trees on the site. The land will remain in agricultural use, even when the solar panels are installed on ground mounted frames. This means minimal ground disturbance during construction allowing sheep to continue grazing on the land once the facility becomes operational.
While photovoltaic solar is relatively new to Ireland, it already plays a key role around the world in meeting user day time energy needs. The UK, for example, generates almost 10,000 megawatts of electricity from solar PV technology, enough to power over two million homes. It is anticipated that further advancements in solar PV and storage technology in the coming years will lead to increased adoption both in Ireland as well as globally.
Terra Solar has over 35 solar farm development sites across Ireland including Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, Tipperary and Galway. ESB has invested €2.5 million to take a minority shareholding in the company to accelerate the development of solar energy generation in Ireland. Together Terra Solar and ESB have the potential to deliver over 260 megawatts of electricity generation capacity from solar energy, which would power over 50,000 homes every year.