‘Investing in renewable energy can help farmers to diversify their income’

Wind has become the main source of renewable energy production in Ireland, increasing from less than 1% of total primary energy production in 1990 to 22% in 2014, while investing in renewable energy can help farmers to diversify their income.

Moreover, capturing power from the sun or wind and converting it into electricity creates a resource which can either be consumed on-site or sold to the national grid.

Wind insights:
  • Studies show that wind patterns in certain parts of Ireland are ideal for wind energy production;
  • Farmers with land in these regions can obtain a good long-term return on investment to the sale of electricity to the national grid;
  • In 2018, wind provided 85% of Ireland’s renewable electricity and 30% of total electricity demand;
  • After wind energy, wood fuels are the largest contributor to renewable energy generation in Ireland.

These were just some of the findings that were discussed by the author of IFAC’s Irish Farm Report 2019, Philip O’Connor, during the publication’s launch in Co. Laois last week.

The report details the views of over 2,133 Irish farmers and contains a comprehensive analysis of 21,755 sets of IFAC farm accounts over four years.

O’Connor did warn, however, that there are many factors to consider before deciding to invest in wind or solar.

These include planning, contracts, leasing, taxation and succession to name but a few.

He continued: “A 2015 project initiated by the Carlow/Kilkenny Energy Agency under SEAI’s Better Energy Communities programme included the installation of a 250kWp solar array on the rooves of cold storage sheds at a family farm in Kilkenny.

“Installed by Solar Electric in October 2015, the 1,000 solar panels represented an investment of €270,000, 18% of which was funded by an SEAI grant.”

Solar insights:
  • Land under solar panels can still be used for grazing small livestock or beekeeping.

Meanwhile, O’Connor pointed to the panels of the Kilkenny operation and highlighted how they will generate over 208,000kWh of electricity per year – contributing 11% of the business’s total electricity consumption.

“This helps provide the family with greater energy price certainty and contributes to their overall corporate social responsibility goals,” he added.

“It is also supporting Bord Bia’s objectives to reduce energy use in the food supply chain.”

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