Dairy style co-operatives are the way for solar energy to win the hearts and minds of rural Ireland


Solar park announcements have become a staple on company websites in recent years.

Last week Bord Gáis Energy and Amarenco announced a deal to build eight solar farms in Cork.

Developments like these should at first sight be welcomed by all. Ireland is in dire need of clean energy and many farmers are in dire need of a new source of income.

Nevertheless, question marks remain as to how solar parks will ultimately develop in Ireland and who will benefit from them.

As Martin O’Sullivan writes, farmers need to consider many financial implications before making solar development decisions – and decisions made today can have long-term consequences for farmers and their successors.

An inflexible tax law is a major obstacle to the development of solar parks, and the state must decide whether to encourage them or not.

Solar farms can also create tension in rural communities, just as wind farms and transmission cables did in the past. The last thing the country needs is fractious neighbors and communities reaching out over developments that will wean us off fossil fuels.

The planning system in relation to solar parks seems to be a complete gray area and here too the government needs to step in and ensure the public interest is protected.

Ending the bureaucracy surrounding the installation of solar panels on roofs is an obvious first step.

Climate change may be one of those issues that everyone agrees needs transformation — as long as it doesn’t affect them personally.

Ireland needs to transition its energy system away from fossil fuels and solar farms will be part of that mix.

Greater community involvement and ownership in solar park development could offer a solution to many of these problems.

Indeed, the success of the cooperative structure in the dairy industry provides an ideal template for how all renewable energy, not just solar, could be introduced in Ireland.

Faceless multinational corporations dominate today’s energy system on which we all depend so much. Maybe there is another way. Dairy style co-operatives are the way for solar energy to win the hearts and minds of rural Ireland

Fry Electronics Team

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