A chara, – Despite the potential solar power holds to counter two of the biggest crises currently facing our Government, its dithering around the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) runs the risk of compounding its problems further (“Delays threaten plans to develop solar farms”, News, August 20th).
The first crisis – upheaval among beef farmers over their disappearing livelihood – is local, with potentially significant electoral costs. The second – human-triggered climate change – is global, with existential costs that are obvious to everyone but the most wilfully ignorant by now.
Solar farms present an opportunity to many Irish farmers to change how they use their land, with more profitable and environmentally friendly results.
The four farmers interviewed in Kevin O’Sullivan’s article may represent the vanguard in a movement to keep many Irish farms viable rather than just fodder for property speculation or jigsaw pieces in super farms.
Key to Ireland leading by example on this front, however, is the government’s ability to establish facilitative conditions. RESS is the primary policy mechanism to drive use of renewables in Ireland, allowing “energy citizens” to provide an alternative to fossil-fuel power in their locality.
An auction process to finalise contracts was due to begin in 2018 but has been delayed and is now not due to finish before 2020.
The four farmers interviewed now face the possibility that the considerable administrative and financial burden they assumed to build solar farms will be for nothing, as their planning permission may lapse before the scheme is enacted.
What message does this send to others who are considering pursuing a similar project on their farm?
Ireland is guaranteed to face fines in the hundreds of millions of euro for missing European carbon reduction targets by 2020.
At the same time, beef farmers around the country fear for their ability to provide for their families in the face of falling prices and the signing of new European trade deals.
Of course, establishing solar farms is not a panacea for both issues.
However, they do represent one powerful and cost-effective strategy that, if managed competently, would produce benefits for farmers, their neighbours, the State and the environment.