Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Pippa Hackett has said that farmers should be supported to install solar panels for on-farm use and to export back to the grid.

Speaking on the latest episode of Farmland, produced by Agriland Media Group, the Green Party senator said that in the race to decarbonise, all options must be considered.

Her comments came in response to the recent announcement from the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) that supports for solar PV microgeneration will be gradually be phased out, starting in 2024.

Minister Hackett’s interview and discussion about solar supports can be viewed at the video below.

Addressing the topic, the minister said: “I think while we’re in this race to decarbonise our energy sector, we have to look at all options and if the figures add up for solar panels on farms, I think it’s something we’ll still have to look at.

“If we can encourage farmers to use solar panels not only for their own use but also for export back to the grid, I don’t think we’ll be not looking at that.”

The current supports, which are set to be retracted are offered under the Micro-generation Support Scheme (MGSS), which includes a grant from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and an export tariff which is paid per kilowatt.

While these measures are set to be curtailed, Minister Hackett said other incentives will be developed: “Certainly, the feed-in tariffs should entice everyone, particularly farmers.

“There’s the MGSS and there is going to be other schemes for small generation of energy.

“I think in the future it would be great to see roofs covered with panels and support for the farmers for their own use and then the excess fed back to the grid.”

The minister also said that not allowing farmers who have installed solar panels using grants from the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Schemes (TAMS), to export energy to the national grid is senseless.

She said:

“I think the issue with the TAMS-funded solar panels not being eligible is something we have to look at because it just doesn’t make sense.”

Many farmers have been reaping the benefits of having on-farm solar panels, particularly lately, given the increase in energy costs according to Hackett.

She added that they have been working effectively for many large-scale dairy farmers and those running pig and poultry units.

“But, I think in the future, it would be great to see roofs covered with panels and support there for farmers [ to install them ] for their own use and then allow excess to be fed back to the grid,” she finished.