Proper investment urgently needs to be channelled into solar power, MEP Nessa Childers said today as it is announced that Britain will soon overtake Germany as Europe’s largest photovoltaic market.
‘Many people assume that solar power is something that only Mediterranean countries can use with any real effect – but that is not correct. At a time when Ireland’s energy needs are being scrutinised, we need to take firm steps towards alternative power sources – and that very much includes the sun.
‘The fact that our closest neighbour, with a similar climate to ourselves, is on course to become Europe’s largest photovoltaic market should really be very encouraging.
‘Because when it comes to generating solar energy in the EU, Ireland is one of the worst performing Member States.’
Within a year, Britain will boast more than 325 large-scale solar farms, with more than 60 different sites capable of generating power in excess of ten megawatts.
In February, planning permission was given for a five megawatt facility in Co. Down on the outskirts of Downpatrick. With investment totally tens of millions, it is the first large-scale solar farm on the island and will more than double Northern Ireland’s solar power capacity.
‘Why is the Government consistently opting to pour time and money into exploring and developing the controversial likes of yet more obtrusive wind farms?,’ Ms Childers asked.
‘The EU targets are there already and time is not on our side: Ireland must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase renewable energy sources by 2020.’
She added: ‘And it must also be noted that the Government will never achieve these targets unless it improves its approach to public consultation: charging ahead with ambitious plans without adequate planning permission to protect local industries, environment and communities has been a hugely problematic issue in the past.’
In September, BNRG Renewables, a Dublin-based solar-farm developer, began building a 20 megawatt solar park in south east England at a cost of some €35million. When built, it will produce enough electricity to power more than 6,600 homes for 30 years with a zero carbon-emission output.
‘Solar power can be a viable business opportunity for those in the agricultural industry,’ Ms Childers continued. ‘And I think we should be ambitious with our plans – Germany has already said that within 35 years all of its energy will be renewable. I see no reason why Ireland cannot follow suit.’