May 1st, 2017
A conclusive end of life strategy for cutaway bogs is required before any work commences on a newly announced solar project between Bord na Mona and the ESB, says An Taisce official.
The semi-state bodies announced plans this week to develop four large solar farms on cutaway peatlands owned by Bord na Mona. Both companies will invest €5m in the project, with the farms set to be based in four locations in Roscommon, Offaly and Kildare.
Over 160 planning applications for solar developments have been lodged across the country, with a major increase in applications in 2016 following a fall in costs. A recent Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland report showed that the cost of solar has fallen by 80 per cent since 2009.
According to the ESB, the project has the capacity to generate a total of 570 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 150,000 homes. To date, only 6MW of solar PV is installed in Ireland and is almost entirely on rooftops.
Environment Minister, Denis Naughten said that the announcement was a “significant step” towards a “cost effective, secure and sustainable energy system.” “Depleted cutaway bogs, once a resource powering peat-burning power stations, have become a key resource in the production of clean energy.”
A quarter of electricity currently comes from renewables, the vast majority generated from wind. The Minister added that solar will soon play a major role alongside wind in supporting the decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy system.
“Nothing short of dramatic changes in our energy system will suffice to achieve our decarbonisation objectives,” he added.
Cutaway Bogs Strategy
While welcoming the potential move toward decarbonisation of Ireland’s energy system, Ian Lumley of An Taisce said that more information is required on the technical specifications of the project.
Mr Lumley told The Green News that a rigorous “rehabilitation strategy for the cutaway bogs” should be a priority for Bord na Mona. He added that the announcement “just seems to be a one-page press release” without any technical specifications.
“There’s been no consultation with the NGOs as to what the actual construction impact would be and as to how it will be reconciled with a future end-life strategy for the cutaway bogs, including the option of rewetting,” he said.
A Bord na Mona spokesperson told The Green News that the project is in its very early stages and technical details for the construction of the solar farms have yet to be developed.
A statement from the company said: “Both companies are now in the very early stages of advancing this project and the project team will now be putting plans in place for development over the coming months.”