By Elizabeth Lee
CARLOW County Council could be in line for a €1.6 million boost, while the Tullow district could benefit by €250,000 if plans for a solar farm in the area get the green light.
Lightsource Renewable Energy Ireland has plans to build a 320-acre solar farm in the Straboe area across four different sites, but before the company submits its plans to the council, it will hold pre-application presentations with local residents and councillors.
Aiden Collins, an environmental planner who works with Lightsource Renewable Energy Ireland, gave a comprehensive presentation to councillors at the latest meeting of Tullow Municipal District. Mr Collins said that the enterprise was established in Co Antrim in 2010 and that it is now an international company, having been invested by BP Oil.
He said the proposed solar farm for the Tullow area was 320 acres but that it was spread across four sites – on the Castledermot/Tullow Road and the Rathvilly Road – with four landowners involved. Enough electricity to power 26,400 homes could be generated, which would be fed into the national grid, he said.
Ahead of planning permission being lodged, environmental studies will be carried out at the proposed sites, while an information day will be held in Grange Hall. Information leaflets will be delivered to all 130 households in the area and, after that, residents will be invited to contact the company with any questions or concerns.
Mr Collins also pointed out that the building of the solar farm would create employment opportunities, but much of the construction would be done by Greek and Spanish companies.
The presentation was warmly received by the Tullow MD members, who praised Lightsource for first consulting with the public and letting people know its intentions ahead of making a formal planning proposal.
Cllr William Paton asked if there would be any financial compensation to local people, to which Mr Collins replied that under the renewable energy scheme, companies were obliged to provide for the local community. “And not just a few GAA jerseys, either,” said Mr Collins.
He explained that Carlow County Council could expect about €1.6 million in development contributions, while Tullow MD could benefit from €250,000.
Cllr John McDonald said that he welcomed Lightsource’s communications strategy and hoped that the lines of communication would continue, while cllr John Murphy said that he liked the fact that the solar farm would be spread across four sites, rather than one big area.
Cllr John Pender noted that one of the sites was close to his own home and asked Mr Collins about the laying of cables, while cathaoirleach Charlie Murphy agreed that “consultation with the public is vital”.
Cllr Brian O’Donoghue said that people could possibly be apprehensive about glare from the solar panels, but Mr Collins replied that the panels are dark-coloured, which enables them to absorb the light. He also pointed out that there was a solar farm near Dublin airport, so it has to be free from glare.
Mr Collins also told the meeting that the planning process could take a year and that the project should be completed by 2026 or 2027.
The information day is taking place in Grange Hall, Killerig on Wednesday 7 June from 2pm to 8pm.