A stock photo of solar energy panels in a field.

Green light for another major solar farm

Offaly County Council has given the green light for a large solar farm development to be located eight kilometres to the north east of Tullamore, in the townlands of Derries and Lackan.

The development is expected to see 124,200 solar panels installed across a 53.7 hectare site, and is due to generate enough electricity to power at least 5,000 Irish homes.

A 10-year grant of planning permission for the project was sought by Oranmore-based Entrust Planning and Environmental, under the company name of Offaly Solar Energy AS Limited.

The developer said the scale of the project meant it had the potential to make "a significant contribution" to meeting renewable energy targets in Offaly.

The development site is located 660 metres from Cappagh National School, on "reclaimed bog and farmland" between the Toar Bog and Daingean South Bog.

Permission was sought from the council for the 40-year operation, and subsequent decommissioning of, the solar farm and battery energy storage system, along with a 9.32 kilometre underground connection to the national electricity grid.

The solar panels are due to be mounted on steel support structures, and the development will also include a single storey ESB sub-station building on site, 18 electrical transformation enclosures, and 68 battery energy storage units.

The underground 9.32 kilometre connection to the electrical grid is to be installed under public roads from the solar farm to the Thornsberry ESB Networks sub-station, which flows into the national grid (Eirgrid).

Following pre-planning discussions with Offaly County Council last year, the developer submitted the planning application in January.

A request for extensive further information on the project was made by the council in March, and this was then submitted in late September.

On Tuesday of last week, November 23, council CEO Anna Marie Delaney granted planning permission for the development, subject to 28 conditions.

In documents submitted in support of the planning application, the developer said it would take less than six months, from the start of construction, to install the solar farm, battery storage facility and underground grid connection.

"The proposed solar farm will provide sufficient carbon-free electricity for at least 5,000 average Irish homes and will displace approximately 14.400 tonnes of harmful CO2 emissions per annum," said a planning statement submitted on behalf of the developer.

"This represents a significant contribution to County Offaly renewable energy targets and will contribute in a meaningful way to national electricity targets," it added.

The planning report stated that the development would have a negligible visual effect on nearby residential dwellings and that there would be "no direct visual impact" on Cappagh school, 660 metres away.

An Environmental Noise Assessment was included with the application which stated that the development "does not result in significant noise disturbance" and would be designed and constructed to minimise noise.