Community strife will continue unless guidelines are used in the planning process for solar energy farms according to Clare TD, Timmy Dooley.
Dooley who is the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Energy said that Minister Denis Naughten has been disappointingly slow in providing guidance and support to companies interested in establishing solar energy farms.
Deputy Dooley was commenting on foot of reports that show that on average 145 applications for planning permission are being lodged every year, and local authorities do not have the required guidance and advice from the Department on how to deal with and assess them.
“It’s clear that there is a significant interest among people and companies in establishing solar farms to generate electricity for sale into the Irish market. This is a good thing, but it is being hampered by a lack of guidance from central government. Both Minister Naughten’s and Minister Coveney’s departments are required to provide local authorities, those charged with approving or declining these types of planning applications, with guidance to ensure that such developments meet sustainable planning rules.
“We cannot have situations, like in the past, where wind energy developments were foisted upon communities without consultation and proper sustainable planning. Solar energy can be, in certain parts of the country, a vital source of renewable, sustainable and clean energy. If done right, it can reduce our country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
“If implemented incorrectly, we will have years of conflict in communities, and fall in our commitment to reduce fossil fuel consumption. Minister Naughten needs to move quickly, in conjunction with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, to develop and issue guidelines. Too many applications have been submitted without guidance, and that is a major cause for concern,” concluded Dooley.
A publication from the Irish Solar Energy Association is due in the next week where they will outline their own recommendations. Government advisory body, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, recently funded consultants, Future Analytics, to draw up planning recommendations.