3 GW solar potential in Ireland's brownfield sites

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Unexpectedly, Ireland has emerged as one of the European nations that could drive a solar resurgence on the continent. Inspired by favorable government policy on renewable energy, and a growing solar pipeline, a PV boom may be on its way, and Dulas has found unexplored market potential in the country’s brownfield sites.

In the renewable energy advisor’s first ‘Irish Brownfield Report,’ Dulas states that there could potential brownfield site development of up to 3 GW. It calls this Ireland’s solar market’s ‘hidden potential.’

In compiling the report, Dulas examined the country’s 400-600 brownfield sites, and based its forecasts on a 5 MW project size per site, as this would initiate the country’s favorable feed-in tariff. Of course, the report was quick to point out that this is a ‘best case scenario’ as not all of the sites will be available or suitable for project development.

Why brownfield

Dulas highlight some significant advantages of choosing to develop a solar project on a brownfield site as opposed to a greenfield site. The obvious example is price, as brownfield land would be significantly cheaper than greenfield land. It also highlights ease of access to the brownfield land, and even mentioned the potential of finding landfill gas, which could contribute to energy generation.

However, there are of course a number of challenges that would go with brownfield development. Namely, finding the appropriate specialists to develop the project, and the process of securing certain licenses that would not be necessary with greenfield sites.

“The Irish solar market is one that can offer the right incentives to construction and development, with all the benefits of building in a mature Western European economy,” commented Alistair Marsden, sales and marketing director at Dules. “

It is not the first piece of research stressing the potential of the Irish solar market, as just last month IHS Markit highlighted Ireland as one of the countries that could inspire a solar PV resurgence in Europe. In the report, IHS charted a 3 GW pipeline of PV projects in the country at various stages of permitting. However, these project have all bet on the introduction of large-scale solar incentives, which policymakers are supposedly preparing for 2017.

The Irish government has certainly shown a clear commitment to renewable energy sources within the country, but has yet to finalize its renewable energy policy or the financial incentives that will be made available to renewable developments. One thing that makes the country particularly attractive for solar PV development is the growing deployment of energy storage solutions across Ireland, which should make solar technology easier to integrate.