Plans for a 170MW solar farm in the midlands have received a split decision from An Bord Pleanála, with only part of the development granted approval to go ahead.

Derrycarney Solar Limited sought permission for a solar farm on a 247 hectare site to the west of Tullamore Co. Offaly.

The developer intended to erect a total of 5,704 No. full table solar panel arrays (c. 29.98m long x c. 4.57m wide x c. 2.8m high) and 927 No. half table solar Panel arrays (c. 14.98m long x c. 4.57m wide x c. 2.8m high).

When fully operational the proposed solar farm would have had a capacity of 170MW, supplying 14,000 MWh of electricity to the national grid each year. 

Benefits of Solar Panels on a Farm

Offaly County Council refused planning permission for the solar farm back in March 2023, citing concerns about the sensitivity and amenity of the landscape in the area.

 Part of the solar farm would be located too close to the Grand Canal, and another section was to be located in the Lough Boora Discovery Park, a ‘High Amenity Area’.

The council said that the solar farm would be incongruous with the landscape and affect the recreational and amenity of the Canal.

Proposed Solar Farm Location

The site is split between two parcels of land separated by a cutaway bog, scrublands, forestry and pastures. Both parcels are located to the north of Shannonbridge Road (R357) and south of The Grand Canal.

Zone 1, the western land parcel, covers approximately 128 hectares and is roughly 125m south of the Grand Canal at its nearest point.

Zone 2, located roughly 1.5km to the east, measures approximately 110 hectares and is situated just over 1km south of the Grand Canal in the Lough Boora Discovery Park.

renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydro

Appeal and Split Decision

The developer, Derrycarney Solar Limited appealed Offaly County Council’s decision to An Bord Pleanála arguing that the solar farm would not have a negative impact on the landscape.

The appeal stated that the low-lying and heavily screened solar PV in Zone 2 (Lough Boora) would not comprise the landscape.

It also argued that local precedents had been set for allowing renewable energy developments in high amenity areas with the Leabeg Wind Farm, Cloghan and Meenwaun Wind Farms.

The appeal also stated that there is at least one field boundary located between Zone 1 and the Canal, with little visual impact which would be further reduced by new planting.

The inspector for An Bord Pleanála had recommended granting planning approval for the entire development, stating that the development could be accommodated without significant impact on the landscape character in the area.

The Bord decision ultimately overruled part of the inspector’s recommendation, granting planning permission only for the western sector of the development.

An Bord Pleanála gave the green light for the part of the solar farm located in Zone 1 subject to 19 planning conditions.

However, the board blocked any development in the area marked Zone 2, the eastern parcel of land, due to the sensitivity of the site.

The decision noted that the site is located in the Lough Boora Discovery Park ‘High Amenity Area’ and within a highly sensitive landscape area as set out in the Offaly County Development Plan 2021 – 2027.

The proposed solar farm would negatively impact on the character of the area the Bord said, and would therefore be contrary to the proper and sustainable development of the area.

Author: Briain Kelly, Renewable Energy Researcher

Briain developed a keen interest in the green transition and renewable energy while working as a news reporter in the West of Ireland. He is devoted to learning about and sharing the latest research and best practices within the world of renewables, and is up-to-date with the most cutting edge technology in the world of renewable energy. His expert knowledge extends to groundbreaking technological developments across the world, as well as government policy here in Ireland and abroad.

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