Farmers advised to exercise ‘caution’ when signing up to any solar energy contract

Farmers thinking of looking into solar energy need to exercise caution before signing up to any agreement, according to James Murphy, IFA Renewables Chairman.

Speaking at an IFA seminar on solar energy he said that while there are good reasons to be optimistic about solar energy in Ireland, farmers should exercise caution in signing up to any agreement.

“Signing up to solar PV on your farm can provide an alternative source of income. However, as yet there is no certainty on the REFIT Tariff, grid connection policy or community involvement and until there is, farmers should exercise a cautious approach. All farmers should get legal advice before signing any agreement with solar development companies.”

He cautioned that the use of exclusivity agreements by solar companies represent a one-way-bet in which farmers take on all of the uncertainty and developers get all the commitments they need, usually at no cost.

He said that if a company is genuinely interested in developing on a farmer’s land, there should be no exclusivity agreement and the deal should move straight to option agreement discussions under which farmers should negotiate a guarantee base price.

“If you sign up to a exclusivity agreement with a solar development company, you are giving them a valuable asset but they are committing to nothing. Farmers need to ensure they are well advised and they get a fair deal.”

IFA President Joe Healy called on the Government to provide more certainty on solar energy so that its potential to assist in meeting emissions targets and in improving farm incomes can be realised,

While up to 15,000 acres of farmland in Ireland are under some form of solar contract, Healy said a number of crucial questions remain to be addressed, particularly regarding the feed-in-tariff to be applied to solar generated energy, grid connection, farm scale projects, and community participation in solar development projects.

The IFA President said the European Commission will next week set out Ireland’s emission reduction targets to be delivered by the year 2030 for the non-ETS sector, which includes farming and that solar energy has significant mitigation potential that could assist us in reaching those targets.

“The Government must come forward with greater policy certainty to facilitate this, as well as to deliver on our 2020 renewable energy obligations, on which we are currently falling short.”