Much talk has been centred on solar panels and the installation of them on farms in light of the energy crisis being experienced.

At the Irish Farm Buildings Association Conference (IFBA) in Birr, Co. Offaly earlier this year, Dick Meaney of Solar Electric spoke about solar PV and the opportunities it offers farms across the country.

After Meaney’s presentation, a number of questions were posed to him regarding if there was any need to reinforce roofs prior to installation, orientation and maintenance of solar panels.

The first question posed centred around whether or not the roof in which a panel was to be fitted on needed to be reinforced. According to Meaney, they don’t.

“The panels themselves are really light, between the weight of the panel and bracketing system you’re talking about a combined weight of 21-22kg,” he said.

“They are stitched down onto the roof and also the panels are only about 50mm above the roof, so there are no worries with wind getting under them or anything like that.”

What side of the shed should I face the panels?

Another question from the audience was on what side of the shed the panels should be fitted.

Answering this question, Meaney said: “If you are a robotic farmer, you would be looking to face them east to west because you would have a flatter curve.

“By this I mean, you are constantly using energy. Conventional dairy farmers will get the benefits from them at the shoulders of the year with an east-west configuration as well.

“Because you are milking early in the morning, the earlier you get your energy the better and you will also get some energy in the evening as well.

“From a south-facing aspect, you will actually generate more energy over the course of the year. Roughly 10% more overall.

“The reason for that is because the sun will be highest come the afternoon, around noon to 1:00p.m coming from the south, and that is where you will get your highest generation of energy from.

“But, an east-west configuration would be absolutely fine. I would say going forward, it would be pertinent to look at the orientation of sheds being built going forward.

“If you are thinking about installing solar panels and you have plans to build a new shed, you should be thinking now about how where those panels will generate the most energy for you from.

“You want to be avoiding having your predominate facing roof facing north because you will lose a lot of potential energy generation.”

Is there much maintenance involved?

The last question aimed at Meaney on solar panels centred around their upkeep.

“There is almost no maintenance required with a solar PV system,” Meaney said.

“There are no moving parts involved with it.

“In the vast majority of cases, rainwater will keep the solar panels clean.

“Where you might see some build of dirt on a farm, is if you have a mill and have constant production of dust and you may see a scenario where an annual or bi-annual clean may be needed.

“I know one system that went was installed in 2015 and it got it’s first clean this year so that just gives you an idea.”