Planning permission granted for Offaly solar farm

Offaly County Council just last week granted planning permission for a solar farm near Tullamore.

Elgin Energy got the go-ahead – with 13 conditions attached – for the 8.4MVA (mega volt-amperes) project proposed for a single site, comprised of just under 18ha.

It consists of three fields in the townland of Ballyduff, adjacent to the Clara Road, Tullamore, a company spokesperson said.

The panels will be fixed in position and arranged in south-facing rows absorbing sunlight. Existing field boundaries will not be disturbed, and mature hedgerows will provide generous screening for the site.

The company said it has contacted those neighbours in the immediate vicinity of the site, and has offered to answer any queries which might arise.

The spokesperson said a commencement date had not yet been decided, as the company would be taking stock of the 13 conditions imposed by the local authority.

The proposed project, the spokesperson said, will help contribute to the national target of achieving 40% of all our electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Elgin Energy is an Irish solar energy company based in Dublin, which has delivered 250MW of green energy across 24 projects in the UK and Ireland. The company said it has provided over 75,000 households with renewable clean electricity.

A further 750MW of projects are at various stages of planning and development across the UK and Ireland, according to the company spokesperson.

The Irish Solar Energy Association has stated that farming may continue between and underneath solar PV (photovoltaic) modules.

This, it said, can be done by grazing small livestock such as sheep and free-ranging poultry; the cultivation of fruits and vegetables such as asparagus and pumpkins, or non-food crops such as lavender; and the sowing of wildflower seeds and beekeeping.

According to the association, construction is 100% reversible after the lifetime of the project. It contends that the land can be restored in often better condition, with enhanced biodiversity.