Author: Carl Johannes Muth
Fresh hope has emerged that Ireland’s solar potential could soon start to be unleashed. On Tuesday, Irish solar company BNRG Renewables Limited set up a joint venture with the leading French energy firm Neoen to develop, construct, own and operate a number of solar projects in Ireland. The new BNRG Holding Limited will co-develop a portfolio of 23 solar farms in the South and East of Ireland, with a combined capacity over 200MW.
According to BNRG, construction work is planned to start in mid-2018 and to be finalised by 2020, creating up to 60 full time positions in operating and another 2,000 jobs during the construction phase.
Both firms expect new support mechanisms for large-scale solar to be announced this year, re-financing the investments of over €220 million. The recent solar projects therefore represent a new chance for large-scale solar in Ireland, after hopes for appropriate policy support from the government were dismantled.
In late 2016, at the Energy Institute annual dinner, Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Natural Resources, Denis Naughten, told the Irish solar industry not to expect much in the way of further subsidy support for PV. “While I do see a place for solar in the energy mix, we cannot have a situation where a new support scheme leads to an excessive increase in people’s electricity bills through a higher Public Service Obligation levy,” Naughten said.
In August, IHS Market analyst Josefin Berg suggested that Ireland could develop at least 3GW of solar capacity quite easily, based on its PV pipeline, but warned that follow-through for many of these projects was contingent on the introduction of large-scale solar incentives. “If an attractive scheme comes into place, a wave of construction activity can be expected,” Berg wrote.
Ireland, traditionally a wind energy country, generates more than 25% of its electricity by renewable energy sources and plans to meet its target of 40% by 2020. Over the last few years, PV deployment has increased in the country, but stayed relatively low, with 2GW installed capacity, according to a report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).