Planning granted for €4.2m solar farm in Mullingar

Westmeath County Council has granted permission for a €4.5m Solar Farm at The Downs, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath.  The 5MW solar farm will be located on a 9.3 hectare plot and will involve the construction of 20,000 photovoltaic (PV) panels on ground mounted frames, five single storey inverter stations with security fencing and CCTV.

The ORS Energy Team worked closely with client Thomas Flynn & Sons Ltd, throughout the design and planning of the project. A number of specialist sub-contractors were also brought on board to address the areas of glint and glare and archaeology at the site.

The project will commence once the Government announces a Solar PV Feed-In-Tariff which is due before the end of the year.

Here are 10 key reasons why solar energy is a great source of renewable energy:

  1. Well selected solar sites have little or no landscape visual impact.  Solar arrays are generally 2-3m in height and can be easily screened with hedgerows.
  2. Solar causes no emissions to air, soil or water and causes no noise.
  3. Solar farms are typically inert, with a negligible environmental impact.
  4. Electricity is produced at low voltages and therefore poses no health risks to the public or livestock.
  5. Solar farms represent a positive form of agricultural diversification in local communities as temporary use in the landscape.
  6. Solar farms support agricultural activity such as grazing small livestock.
  7. The absence of fertilisers and chemical based substances on the land also allows flora and fauna to thrive and enhances biodiversity.
  8. Little or no concrete is used in solar farm construction making them easy to reverse. The land can be restored, generally in a better condition, with enhanced biodiversity.
  9. From an environmental perspective, a typical 1MW solar plant in Ireland will generate carbon savings of approximately 350 tonnes per annum, the equivalent of the amount of carbon absorbed by 12,500 tree seedlings over 10 years.  Therefore this proposed solar development of 5MW, would generate carbon savings of 1,750 tonnes per annum, the equivalent of the amount of carbon absorbed by 62,500 tree seedlings over 10 years.
  10. Solar farms increase and diversify farming income by providing a stable source of revenue over the lifetime of the solar project. This will in turn ensure the viability of farming for decades to come and encourage the next generation of farmers to keep farming the land.

One concern regarding large-scale deployment of solar energy is its potentially significant land use. The land area of Ireland is 6.9 million hectares, of which about 4.2million hectares are used for agriculture. If 1000MW of solar PV was installed on the ground in Ireland, it would only use around 2230 hectares, 0.054% of the land area, generating enough electricity for over 330,000 homes for 30 years. (Ref: ISEA).