28th June 2021 | Energy, Environment, Press Releases

Solar-powered electricity will be easier and cheaper for public buildings and farms with Green Party bill

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The Green Party will today (June 28th) bring a bill for debate to the Seanad that will make it easier to generate electricity through solar panels on public buildings, schools and agricultural buildings. The bill will amend outdated Planning and Development Regulations to remove planning restrictions and allow the installation of solar panels on public buildings, including schools, without planning permission.

Senator Pauline O’Reilly who is bringing the Bill to the Seanad stated;

“Despite Ireland not being the sunniest of countries, we actually have huge potential for solar power. However, we have very few solar panels generating electricity due to outdated policy and red tape.

“Currently, public buildings and schools need to seek planning permission to install even one solar panel and this can take months of paperwork and formalities. Businesses and agricultural buildings are only allowed very small arrays, often not enough to power the building. This legislation is all about making it easier, cheaper and quicker for buildings to install solar panels to produce free, clean renewable electricity to use for their electricity needs – computers, kettles, tv’s, whiteboards, photocopiers; wherever a building may use electricity – and thereby reducing their costs and carbon footprint.”

Senator Roisin Garvey, speaking on the benefit to schools, added;

“I have worked with schools for 14 years on environmental education and having listened to them raise issues around planning permission – and raised them myself several times with local and national government – it is great to finally see a bill that will resolve these issues and will simplify the process for schools to get solar panels on their roofs. It is great to see this badly needed bill finally coming to fruition thanks to the hard work of myself and my colleagues in the Green Party.”

This bill will reduce the barriers associated with solar panel installation, including the employment of architects in advance of installation, the submission of multiple planning applications and limitations surrounding ground mounted solar panels.

Minister of State for Land Use and Biodiversity, Senator Pippa Hackett said;

“We need to move quickly to renewable energy to meet our emissions targets, so planning laws that restrict the use of solar panels on schools and community buildings need to be rapidly overhauled. Apart from the climate considerations, allowing such buildings to generate solar energy will reduce their costs. Updating this legislation would also clear the way for more solar panels on farm sheds, reducing farmers costs and making agriculture more environmentally friendly.”

Senator Vincent P Martin concluded;

“There are public buildings in every constituency in Ireland, so this bill will have a real tangible benefit across the nation. It will pave the way for public buildings to sell excess electricity generated back to the grid. There is huge opportunity if we consider the amount of time during weekends or holidays that a school could be generating electricity.”