Teagasc bio-energy specialist Barry Caslin has confirmed that planning permission for the installation of solar PV panels will be required, depending on the size of the array.

Speaking on the most recent edition of the Tillage Edge podcast, he indicated that the different assessment priorities will be applied, depending on the location of the panels.

In a farming context, this breaks down to two main locations: The dwelling house or a farm building.

“The limit on a domestic dwelling house today is 12m². Every kW requires a space of around 5m²,” Caslin explained.

“This works out at around 2kW/house, without a requirement for planning. Where farm buildings are concerned, an array of panels extending to 50m² can be installed without a need for planning.

“A chilled potato store would require 50kW of PV. So, at the present time, growers would only be allowed to install panels that will deliver up to 9kW without planning permission.”

Planning permission for solar PV

Planning permission represents a significant and added cost to any on-farm solar PV project.

However, according to Barry Caslin, changes are coming, which will see the maximum size of PV panel arrays being increased, before planning is required.

“But potential exposure to commercial rates is also an issue. This is a matter that should be discussed with planning professionals before any solar PV project goes ahead,” he stated.

The Teagasc representative indicated that provision will soon be made for farmers with microgeneration systems to export surplus electricity back to the grid, thereby getting 13.5c/kWh for this energy.

“It was initially hoped to have this measure in place by August,” he said.

“However, it will almost certainly happen before the end of the year.

“A TAMS [Targeted Agriculture Modernisation] grant is available on installation projects. However, if farmers decide to go down this road, they will not get the premium price on surplus electricity supplied to the grid.

“It’s a case of getting one or the other, not both.”    

Caslin stressed the primary importance of using microgeneration on farms to displace electricity sourced from the grid, which can cost up 30c/kWh.

“Where potato and grain stores are concerned, electricity is used in a number of ways, from the refrigeration of product through to the operation of fans and lighting systems,” he explained.

“It also makes sense to look at the best deal out there when it comes to sourcing electricity from a network provider.”