TD calls for cash-back for farmers who generate solar power

An Independent TD has called on the Government to put in place a payment scheme for farmers who produce electricity for the national grid through solar power.

Carol Nolan, a TD for Offaly, made the call following an engagement with farmers from her own constituency, as well as Laois, where she addressed the issue of solar panel funding under the Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Scheme (TAMS).

She called for the Government here to look at the ‘Feed-in-Tariffs’ (FIT) scheme that is currently used in the UK, and to emulate that example.

We know that when the UK government introduced the FIT scheme in 2010, it led to farmers – who installed a small 3kW solar system – earning up to £1,700 (€1,960) a year.

“The way it worked in the UK is that the government, through a so-called feed-in-tariffs offer, guaranteed cash-back to every farmer on every unit of electricity generated for the national grid, usually over a 25-year period,” explained Nolan.

“This has the benefit of being not only an environmentally sustainable option, but also economically stable too,” she added.

She highlighted that such a scheme could go towards alleviating the cost of the most energy-intensive agriculture sectors.

Under this scheme, farmers would be rewarded for generating power for the national grid instead of being unduly burdened by completely unavoidable energy use that is necessary for the farms survival.

Nolan also explained that farmers across the water had the option of buying back the electricity purchased on-site at a pre-agreed rate; it is her understanding that this is significantly cheaper than what energy customers would normally pay their existing suppliers.

“We need to be creative if our farms are to survive and thrive, and that is the key reason why we should at least examine this kind of scheme as an option,” argued Nolan.

Concluding, she said: “If there are flaws in the UK model then at least we have the benefit of learning from their mistakes, thereby allowing us to create a bespoke energy and cash generating option for our own farmers.”