Irish senator proposes solar mandate on public buildings


A member of Ireland's upper house of parliament has called for solar to be compulsory on all new public buildings during a debate over a Green Party bill moving to exempt panels on farms and public sites from planning permission.

During a committee-stage debate in the Seanad Éireann, the Irish Senate, Fianna Fáil senator Fiona O'Loughlin said the government should also pay for the installation of solar panels on school roofs.

The proposal to exempt panels on schools and other public buildings from the need to have planning consent was tabled by the Green Party in June and the party yesterday welcomed comments reportedly made by the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, on Tuesday, which indicated the bill could be expected to make progress into legislation within three weeks.

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The legislation introduced by the Green Party – which is a member of Ireland's coalition government alongside center-right parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – would also remove a restriction which currently means only half the roofspace on schools, public buildings and commercial properties can be fitted with solar panels outside of the planning regime.

Similarly, the bill proposes permitting ground-mounted PV arrays of up to 100m2 rather than the current 25m2, and would permit such arrays to be up to 4m off the ground, doubling the current restriction for systems outside the planning regs.

Supporters of the bill claim it is of vital importance to back the microgeneration rules recently introduced by environment minister and Green Party member Eamon Ryan, which introduced payments for renewable energy generators who export their excess electricity into the grid.

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With Green Party senator Róisín Garvey yesterday indicating electricity payment income would be of crucial importance to farmers facing rising input costs, O'Loughlin, a former chair of the committee on education and social protection, said the same was true of schools, for whom rapidly rising electricity costs are frequently among their largest expenses.

Independent senator Sharon Keogan backed the proposed legislation but warned it must be accompanied by rules ensuring the best possible practices be put in place to ensure the recycling of end-of-life solar panels.

With the debate beginning yesterday, a transcription of the discussion published on the website of Irish government the Oireachtas yesterday closed with the phrase: “Additional debate to follow.”

During the committee debate, Garvey had stressed the importance of prioritizing the legislation by saying: “For the farms of Ireland, for the schools of Ireland, for the community halls all over the country, the 4,000 schools and 2 million homes, this needs to happen as soon as possible.”

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