Co Clare could become a leading generator of solar- powered energy with the announcement that the county’s first solar farm is to be located at Ballymorris, just off the Ennis-Limerick N18 road.The 12.4 hectare farm will be connected to the national grid and will generate enough electricity to power 1,200 homes over a 25-year period.Following a number of pre-planning meetings with the local planning authority, Terra Solar will lodge its first planning application to develop a solar farm at its Ballymorris site in Cratloe in the coming weeks.
The company has selected six sites in Clare, which all share certain common characteristics, and has applied in each case for grid connection to ESB Networks.Requiring an investment of €5m apiece, the six sites in the Shannon area will provide enough electricity to power 6,000 homes.An announcement about a similar €30m development in Kerry will be made over the coming month.The company projects the creation of 60 construction jobs per site over a 12-week period, with most of these posts being sourced locally.The overall investment will also make the Shannon region more attractive for new industry as the overall energy created by the local solar farms would almost be the equivalent of decarbonising Shannon.
“It will create a good platform to attract multinationals such as the likes of Google and Apple, which want to source renewable energy,” said Terra Solar director Andre Fernon. “It will help the Government to position Clare as a renewable energy county, which should lead to a springboard for other jobs.”While Terra Solar’s customers will be ESB Networks and Eirgrid, it will explore its options to deal directly with companies who want to reduce high energy costs. With individual companies setting their own renewable energy targets at corporate level, he said they are looking to move to a carbon neutral footprint.
Terra Solar has had companies approach them directly looking to become involved in a power purchase agreement where energy is allocated to them following grid connection.Mr Fernon confirmed the company has the largest grid application being processed for solar farms in Clare, Kerry, and Limerick.While Ireland has a natural solar resource on a par with Denmark, which has 600 megatwatts and is the fasting growing user of solar energy in Europe, Ireland is the only country in the EU that hasn’t introduced any utility scale solar at all.Contrary to public perception, direct sunlight is not required for modern solar photovoltaic (Solar PV) systems. Even on cloudy days, modern PV systems operate to an adequate efficiency rate due to recent advancements in Solar PV technology.
Solar complements wind energy, which typically blows strongest in winter and at night when it is least consumed, which creates a problem for the grid.“The sun delivers more energy to the Earth in one hour than we use in an entire year from fossil, nuclear, and renewable sources combined. It’s very exciting that technology now allows us to harvest this energy in harmony with nature and we are delighted to be bringing this investment to Clare.”