By BRIAN MOORE
and SIOBHÁN CRONIN
AN Irish solar energy company is planning to build two solar farms near Bandon, creating seven full-time positions, and up to 220 jobs during construction.
The firm, BNRG Renewables Limited, has entered a joint venture with French renewable energy group Neoen, to develop more than €220m of solar projects in Ireland.
Founder David Maguire told The Southern Star this week that two of the projects were planned for sites outside Bandon. One will cover 25-30 acres, and the second will be twice that size. The projects will be 15mw and 30mw farms, but the actual solar element will only impact on about 5% of the actual sites.
The joint venture, BNRG Neoen Holdings Limited, plans to co-develop a portfolio of 23 projects in the south and east of the country, totalling over 200mw, enough energy to supply 80,000 homes.
The construction phase of the project is expected to commence, pending planning, sometime in mid-2018 with the final projects to be constructed by 2020.
BNRG Renewables is the largest and longest-established Irish solar company, and has already developed and constructed more than €230m of solar PV projects in Europe since 2007.
‘The full-time positions in Bandon will be shared with another solar farm planned for Midleton,’ David Maguire, told The Southern Star. ‘The jobs will be in maintenance of the sites.’
The two Bandon sites, and the Midleton site, will be constructed around the same time, he said. Mr Maguire said solar farms, unlike windfarms, have very little visual impact on their environment, as they are sited on low land, and often can be easily hidden. They also do not cause emissions, including noise.
However, Cork County Council, citing concerns about the recent increase in solar project applications, has placed a moratorium on such projects. It has requested guidelines to be issued by the government. A motion from the Bandon Kinsale Municipal District, proposing the moratorium until such guidelines are issued, was passed by councillors at a meeting of the County Council before Christmas.
Mr Maguire said this week that he didn’t expect the Department’s guidelines to be ready for twelve months. But he was keen to get the project underway as the Irish government has carbon targets to meet by the end of 2020.
‘There will be fines in the order of €100m-€120m imposed by the EU if we don’t meet those targets, he said, ‘so the Department of Finance sees genuine concern in missing them.’ He added that there was a great opportunity for farmers to supplement their incomes by leasing land to solar projects. They can attain rents over current market value, and there is very little impact on the land, with just 5% of the site being utilised.
While cattle cannot be grazed on the sites, they are still suitable for sheep to graze, he said.