Solar can provide a viable alternative energy source for the agricultural sector, according to two members of the Joint Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Sea.
In May, the Oireachtas committee met with Teagasc and the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) to discuss the potential supply of the renewable energy source.
He is currently seeking written submissions from interested groups or individuals for his report on the implementation of a cost-effective solar energy strategy for the agricultural industry.
The committee’s vice-chairman, Senator Tim Lombard, believes that solar power can help the sector meet carbon emission reduction targets.
“With the current rise in oil and gas prices, this also offers potential savings on high energy costs that create strains for farmers and agribusinesses.
“To have a thriving agriculture industry in the future, we need to meet carbon reduction targets in an economically viable way – solar power can provide such an opportunity,” he said.
“That’s why the committee is seeking input from all affected stakeholders, interested individuals and groups – to help shape a report on this important initiative.
“We want to use our best asset; those with the expertise working in the industries,” added Senator Lombard.
Meanwhile, Senator Victor Boyhan said making land available for solar developments provides opportunities for farmers to diversify their sources of income.
“Agricultural buildings, such as sheds, on many farms could accommodate solar panels and allow farms to move towards energy independence.
“Some agribusiness producers could generate their own clean energy, maximizing solar power,” he said.
The senator said he was convinced that the agricultural sector is motivated and genuinely interested in participating in solar energy, if the conditions are met.
However, he highlighted “barriers that need to be overcome,” including support structures; Taxation; and access to the electricity grid.
Senator Boyhan has said that a very significant impediment relates to agricultural relief under the tax rules on capital acquisitions.
He pointed out that currently, farms equipped with solar panels can benefit from the relief as long as the panels do not occupy more than half of the total land area.
“Easing the restriction could have an immediate impact for farmers and the solar industry.
“The solar installation does not prevent the use of land for agricultural purposes, such as grazing sheep.
“International experience suggests that 55% to 80% of the land under lease might be available for use, and that’s before land use under panels is considered,” he said.
Senator Boyhan called on farmers and those interested in the debate on the potential of solar power for agriculture to make their views known.
The deadline for receipt of written submissions, which may be sent to [email protected]is 12:00 p.m. on Friday, July 1, 2022.