More than half of eligible schools enlist in new solar scheme in Ireland


Roughly 908 out of 1,600 eligible schools have applied to participate in the first round of Ireland’s Solar for Schools Programme, Ireland’s Department of Education said last week. The initiative, first announced in November, aims to pay for the purchase and installation of 6 kW of rooftop solar programs equating to 16 solar panels at public schools.

Education Minister Norma Foley said the scheme allows schools to reduce carbon emissions while slashing energy costs.

Panels would be connected to the electricity grid, leading to €1,200 ($1,310) to €1,600 per annum in savings, according to the government. Schools from 11 districts could sign up in the first application round which opened in mid-November and is expected to reach completion in May this year.

Western Galway county recorded the most applications, followed by Donegal, Dublin City Council and Kerry. The remaining 2,400 schools will be invited to apply over the next 12 months in two more scheduled phases.

The program is rolled out in phases to ensure a steady flow of work for electricians and installers, with data gathered during the first phase to allow for improvements in the second and third phases, the government said in a press release.

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The program aims to reduce climate emissions but also “encourage more companies to enter the installer market,” according to the announcement. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland reports roughly 550 non-domestic and domestic solar installers are registered with the national energy agency.

Ireland recorded 135 MW of installed solar capacity at the end of 2022, according to its most up-to-date estimates from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).

A report by Ireland’s Solar Energy Association (ISEA) puts this figure much higher, claiming around 680 MW of solar power has been deployed across 59,888 generators in Ireland as of July 2023. Most of this capacity originates from seven large-scale plants surpassing 5 MW totaling 349 MW, the organization said.

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