The first potential site for Lightsource bp’s solar farm in Ireland has been identified.

Europe’s leading solar energy company, Lightsource Renewable Energy, has identified a potential site for its first solar farm in the Republic of Ireland. The company is hosting a community information evening on 8th December, at Thurles Rugby Club, to unveil the plans for a 4.7 Megawatt peak (MWp) site at The Furze, in the Loughtagalla/Moyne Road area east of Thurles, Co. Tipperary.

The proposed site consists of a cluster of small fields, totalling 27 acres, which are currently used as grassland for silage and grazing pasture. Plans are still at an early stage and Lightsource is keen to utilise feedback from local residents to help shape the final proposals before they are submitted to the council for consideration.

If approved, the solar farm would provide enough renewable energy to power 1,200 homes, while saving 2,200 tonnes of carbon emissions each year — equivalent to taking more than 500 large family cars off the road.

Lightsource invests considerable resources in selecting the most appropriate sites for potential solar farms. The solar panels at The Furze would reach a maximum height of 2.5 metres, so would be well- screened from the wider landscape by the site’s boundary hedgerows. All vegetation on the site will be retained and managed as part of the project and Lightsource will plant new trees or hedgerows to fill gaps wherever needed to reduce potential views into the solar farm.

As well as providing a local source of clean energy, the solar farm will also be designed to support existing agricultural activities on site. The site will be designed to accommodate the grazing of small animals, such as sheep or chickens, alongside the generation of “home-grown” electricity. The rows of solar panels will be widely spaced and raised so that grass can establish throughout the site, including the area underneath the panels.

Solar farms can also be a haven for local wildlife and a bespoke biodiversity management plan will be developed for the Tipperary site on the results of ecology surveys, which will ensure that the most appropriate enhancements are incorporated into the site. The seeding of wildflowers across the site could help to attract bees, butterflies, birds and other invertebrates, while any new planting would strengthen wildlife habitats and foraging grounds.

Conor McGuigan, Business Development Director at Lightsource, said: “This is still early days for our first site in the Republic of Ireland and the community information evening will give residents a chance to ensure that these plans are best suited to the local landscape. Solar farms not only produce clean electricity, they also present an opportunity to support local businesses, skills and wildlife habitats by responsibly managing the land. Although the majority of local people will not see the solar farm once it has been installed, we hope that they will be able to clearly recognise the positive community benefits that they bring — with biodiversity enhancements, continuing agricultural use and a locally-produced source of clean, safe energy.”

On December the 8th Lightsource will be holding a community information evening at Thurles Rugby Club.  The information day will be an opportunity for the community to see how solar farms are developed and also to receive local feedback that can be utilised in the final plan.

Lightsource will be looking to utilise local contractors and service providers wherever possible, including:-
–      Security personnel
–      Civil roadways experts
–      Storage and logistics businesses
–      Fencing experts
–      Accommodation & food and beverage providers
–      Landscapers specialising in local/native species
Residents wishing to view the initial proposal in more detail or make suggestions to the Lightsource Planning team can visit the Planning Portal at: www.lightsource-re.ie  click ‘In-House Planning’ and type the site name “Furze” into the search box. An online feedback form is also available on the page.

Lightsource believes that solar can deploy 1.5 Gigawatts of generating capacity by 2020 (which is enough sustainable and clean electricity to power over 495,000 local households), meeting over 5% of Ireland’s electricity demand.

By 2030, 27% of Ireland’s energy will need to come from renewable sources, according to the Government. In its report published in February, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland said Ireland’s 2013 renewable energy production contributed 7.8% of the country’s final energy demand, putting Ireland almost halfway towards the target set of 16% under the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive by 2020.