Teagasc’s Barry Caslin has confirmed that microgeneration, including the use of solar PV, is now an option on Irish farms.

“This is particularly the case on pig, dairy and poultry units,” the bio-energy specialist added.

“The electricity generated in these circumstances would be for self-consumption purposes. But in other countries producers of renewable energy, using this approach, get handsomely rewarded for exporting the electricity to the national grid.”

According to Caslin, all renewable energy production options are now on the table, in terms of future government support measures that will be available.

“This includes wind, anaerobic digestion, energy crops and pulp wood form forestry,” he further explained.

“It’s a case of looking at all available options as the country seeks to meet its energy needs, moving forward.”

Caslin made these comments while taking part in the most recent edition of the Tillage Edge podcast.

He said that large-scale renewable energy projects for the future will include solar PV, wind turbines on land and off-shore wind options.

All of these options are covered by the Renewable Electricity Support (RES) scheme.

Microgeneration and solar PV

Significantly, the green light has recently been given to dedicate 5,000ac of land for solar PV.

“Solar PV is a well proven technology,” Caslin explained.

“The technology works to convert the energy within sunlight into electricity. It operates on both a large- and small-scale basis.”

“Where a dwelling house is concerned, normally three to five kilowatts [kW] of solar PV is required. For a dairy farm with 100 cows, we could be talking about a requirement of 9-11kW of solar PV capacity.

“Some business can go much higher than this. The Irish government is very keen to electrify heating.

“At the moment, the average dwelling will use up to 4,500kWh of electricity per year. But this figure is set to increase substantially as the use of kerosene drops off and the likes of heat pumps become more popular.”

Energy usage

The future also holds out the prospect of electric cars being charged while parked outside the residences of their owners.

And, again, this will lead to further increases in electricity usage across Ireland.  

“It is part of government policy to encourage electricity usage. However, the cost of electricity is going up at the present time,” Caslin commented.

“And it is this context that the viability of solar PV must be assessed. The good news is that the amount of light energy available in Ireland is very predictable.

“Panels need to be faced south or have an east-west orientation. However, a 1kW rated panel will have the capacity to generate 1,000kWh of electricity per annum.”