The future of solar energy in Ireland

Drawn from a range of sectors and government departments, Ireland’s National Mitigation Plan outlined a pathway towards decarbonisation for the first time. The document, published in 2017, highlighted a sharp decline in costs of solar photovoltaic (PV) globally, with increased levels of solar (rooftop and mounted) and microgeneration technologies offering further contributions to Ireland’s renewable energy portfolio.

The National Mitigation Plan also confirmed that the prices of such technology will see a continued global decline. Regardless of such a decline, it is generally accepted that the use of solar technology in Ireland is less efficient than, for example, in southern Europe, where solar penetration is stronger. Indeed, offshore wind has traditionally been the most cost-competitive renewable electricity technology in Ireland, accounting for 22.8 per cent of overall electricity generation in 2015.

Despite this, it is recognised that other energy sources, such as solar, can play an important role in Ireland’s future energy mix. The deployment of solar technology in Ireland is intended to diversify the country’s renewable generation portfolio over a 10-year period between 2020 and 2030, with a particular focus on cost efficiency and effectiveness. The convenience of solar PV, which can be deployed in roof-mounted or ground-mounted installations, has been highlighted as a means of empowering the Irish citizen to take control and ownership over energy production and consumption.

The benefits of solar PV to Ireland’s energy mix have been recognised by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE), who considered the technology as part of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) which was published in July 2018. The new scheme will provide support to renewable energy projects in Ireland, whilst increasing energy security and sustainability. The Government’s objective of diversifying Ireland’s energy mix may play to the advantage of the solar sector at first auction, as it seeks to ramp up investment in nascent technologies.

Financial support is currently available for solar thermal heating technology through grants offered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and large industry can both benefit from these grants. Similarly, households can also avail of grant support for solar thermal under the Better Energy Homes Scheme. Domestic solar thermal systems are designed to meet 50-60 per cent of a household’s hot water requirement across the year. The SEAI have approved 375,000 applications for the Better Energy Homes Scheme since its inception.

Supporting solar in Ireland

Support has also been offered by the SEAI in the form of a Residential Rooftop Solar PV Scheme, which was announced in August 2018. The scheme provides a contribution of up to €3,800 towards total installation costs, and has been highlighted as a measure which would bring more jobs to Ireland’s growing solar sector. The SEAI have argued that such a strategy will encourage self-consumption towards 100 per cent, whilst enhancing public understanding and uptake of solar.

Similarly, the Warmer Home Energy scheme offers a broad range of measures free to householders in need of energy efficiency upgrades, totalling to an average of €3,000. Some of the measures included in the scheme are attic and cavity wall insulation; draught proofing; lagging jackets and low energy light bulbs.

ESB Networks recorded over 500 applications for the installation of solar projects in the Republic of Ireland, according to a completed application list published in 2018. These installations would offer a combined total of over 4,000MW. It is estimated that 1,500MW is achievable by 2022, representing 5 per cent of Ireland’s electricity demand. The ISEA estimates that 2GW solar power could create over 7,000 jobs whilst meeting 7 per cent of the country’s electricity demand.

Aside from this economic contribution, such solar growth could greatly assist Ireland in meeting its EU target of generating 16 per cent of energy requirement from renewables by 2020. Current plans outline that this will be met by 40 per cent from renewable electricity, 12 per cent from renewable heat and 10 per cent from the renewable transport sector. Regardless of such measures, it is widely predicted that Ireland will fail in its 2020 objectives, with current projections lagging far behind at only 13.2 per cent.

Also increasingly the viability of green energy products in Ireland is the lifting of an EU ban on Chinese solar imports. David Maguire of the ISEA has argued that the move could bring down the cost of new Irish solar projects by 10 per cent, whilst encouraging greater supply and competition. The ending of solar import controls from China comes following a 2013 ban, after it was accused of selling solar technology at artificially low prices to shut down European competition.

Planning permission for solar farms has been sought in over 220 applications to local authorities since June 2015. Typical applications submitted to local authorities are from solar farms ranging in size from 20 to 30 acres and offer an average of 5MW of electrical energy. The majority of such applications were submitted with the expectation of a Government support mechanism which would make building more commercially viable. However, such a system has yet to be introduced.

New perspectives

Of particular importance to those considering new solar projects is the proximity of their proposed site to the local substation. Current Irish requirements necessitate a direct connection to the local grid network, unlike many examples across the United Kingdom and Germany where access is provided by a direct connection via an overhead line across sites.

Many factors can party explain the rapid deployment of solar PV across the world in recent years. These include the convenience of the panels, combined with an international push to embrace renewable energy sources. However, two major factors which explain the rise of solar include a drastic drop in module price from $70/watt in 1970 to $0.278/watt as of June 2018, as well as generous government subsidies. Advocates of this increasingly prominent renewable energy source argue that it will have a minimal impact upon the environment, whilst delivering significant benefits to the consumer and the Irish economy as a whole.

It is therefore clear that with the correct support, promotion and subsidisation, solar holds the potential to become one of the most economically viable renewable energy sources on the island of Ireland. This concept is supported by the Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA), who argue that solar, as an energy source, has been traditionally overlooked, with greater focus placed on other sources such as wind.

Despite this fact, solar is now internationally recognised as an integral component of the renewable energy mix and may create a pathway through which Ireland could accelerate the rollout of renewable energy at an affordable cost, whilst also creating much needed employment opportunities in the country’s energy sector.

The benefits of solar energy extend far beyond the provision of clean, ‘green’ energy and electricity, according to ISEA. The organisation argues that the introduction of solar PV should be viewed within the broader context of Ireland’s energy mix, where the energy source can complement other renewable technologies such as tidal and wind. Indeed, advocates of solar PV agree that it significantly contributes to the creation of a diverse and secure supply of electricity, whilst generating income for farmers and supporting economic and social growth.

The substantial decline in the costs of solar PV technology have not only benefitted the consumer. Decreasing prices combined with increased interest have encouraged further innovation in the solar sector. Evidence suggests that applications for solar projects are rapidly expanding and range from solar panels in electric vehicles to solar walls in buildings. Beyond the benefits of innovation, the expansion of solar PV is also predicted to add further value to the economic, environmental and social policy objectives of the Irish Government.

The ISEA estimates that an annual subsidy of €30 million will be required to make the solar sector competitive in Ireland. This estimate supports the fact that Ireland is as geographically well-placed as Germany regarding the employment of solar energy. However, it is also generally recognised that solar energy brings with it certain complications which frequently apply to other renewable energy sources. Developing efficient storage systems has been highlighted as a major challenge that must be met to move this emerging technology forward. Indeed, the possibility of developing such a system has been greatly enhanced by the global decline in energy storage price.

Incentives for sustainability

Whilst the Irish Government acknowledges solar sector analysis which demonstrates that solar PV technology costs fell by 80 per cent from 2008 to 2013, former Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, argued for more time to confirm whether this decrease is indicative of a more complex underlying trend. Rather than incentivise the market by introducing a tariff that encourages exports into the national grid, the Irish Government has instead sought to imbed self-consumption as a central concept of its grant scheme.

December 2017 saw the Department for Communications, Climate Action and Environment announce Cabinet approval for the introduction of a Support Scheme for Renewable Heat. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) saw an allocation of €7 million from Budget 2018 to fund the initial stages of the scheme. The first applications opened in the summer of 2018, despite calls from the Irish Farmer’s Association to fast track its introduction so to allow for its implementation in the first quarter of 2018. RHI is presently exchequer-funded, and solar-thermal technology is eligible for support under the scheme. Budget 2019 has proposed further measures to support renewable projects, including a €500 million Climate Action Fund and a €500 million Disruptive Technologies Fund.

Solar PV takes its place as one of the most versatile technologies to have emerged in recent times. Indeed, its versatility has been recognised as a key driver for more widespread application of the technology in the future. Solar PV’s position as a renewable technology that can be integrated into the built environment make it an ideal contender for urban-based energy projects. Conversely, the non-intrusive nature of the technology also presents itself as suitable for deployment in large projects in rural areas.

The versatility of solar PV has led to a belief held by organisations such as the ISEA that it can act as an interim mitigation measure while the Government determines how to diversify its energy portfolio, whilst also serving as a long-term method of broadening Ireland’s energy mix.

Simple, solar-powered water desalination

A completely passive solar-powered desalination system developed by researchers at MIT and in China could provide more than 1.5 gallons of fresh drinking water per hour for every square meter of solar collecting area. Such systems could potentially serve off-grid arid coastal areas to provide an efficient, low-cost water source.

The system uses multiple layers of flat solar evaporators and condensers, lined up in a vertical array and topped with transparent aerogel insulation. It is described in a paper appearing today in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, authored by MIT doctoral students Lenan Zhang and Lin Zhao, postdoc Zhenyuan Xu, professor of mechanical engineering and department head Evelyn Wang, and eight others at MIT and at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China.

The key to the system’s efficiency lies in the way it uses each of the multiple stages to desalinate the water. At each stage, heat released by the previous stage is harnessed instead of wasted. In this way, the team’s demonstration device can achieve an overall efficiency of 385 percent in converting the energy of sunlight into the energy of water evaporation.

The device is essentially a multilayer solar still, with a set of evaporating and condensing components like those used to distill liquor. It uses flat panels to absorb heat and then transfer that heat to a layer of water so that it begins to evaporate. The vapor then condenses on the next panel. That water gets collected, while the heat from the vapor condensation gets passed to the next layer.

Whenever vapor condenses on a surface, it releases heat; in typical condenser systems, that heat is simply lost to the environment. But in this multilayer evaporator the released heat flows to the next evaporating layer, recycling the solar heat and boosting the overall efficiency.

“When you condense water, you release energy as heat,” Wang says. “If you have more than one stage, you can take advantage of that heat.”

Adding more layers increases the conversion efficiency for producing potable water, but each layer also adds cost and bulk to the system. The team settled on a 10-stage system for their proof-of-concept device, which was tested on an MIT building rooftop. The system delivered pure water that exceeded city drinking water standards, at a rate of 5.78 liters per square meter (about 1.52 gallons per 11 square feet) of solar collecting area. This is more than two times as much as the record amount previously produced by any such passive solar-powered desalination system, Wang says.

Theoretically, with more desalination stages and further optimization, such systems could reach overall efficiency levels as high as 700 or 800 percent, Zhang says.

Unlike some desalination systems, there is no accumulation of salt or concentrated brines to be disposed of. In a free-floating configuration, any salt that accumulates during the day would simply be carried back out at night through the wicking material and back into the seawater, according to the researchers.

Their demonstration unit was built mostly from inexpensive, readily available materials such as a commercial black solar absorber and paper towels for a capillary wick to carry the water into contact with the solar absorber. In most other attempts to make passive solar desalination systems, the solar absorber material and the wicking material have been a single component, which requires specialized and expensive materials, Wang says. “We’ve been able to decouple these two.”

The most expensive component of the prototype is a layer of transparent aerogel used as an insulator at the top of the stack, but the team suggests other less expensive insulators could be used as an alternative. (The aerogel itself is made from dirt-cheap silica but requires specialized drying equipment for its manufacture.)

Wang emphasizes that the team’s key contribution is a framework for understanding how to optimize such multistage passive systems, which they call thermally localized multistage desalination. The formulas they developed could likely be applied to a variety of materials and device architectures, allowing for further optimization of systems based on different scales of operation or local conditions and materials.

One possible configuration would be floating panels on a body of saltwater such as an impoundment pond. These could constantly and passively deliver fresh water through pipes to the shore, as long as the sun shines each day. Other systems could be designed to serve a single household, perhaps using a flat panel on a large shallow tank of seawater that is pumped or carried in. The team estimates that a system with a roughly 1-square-meter solar collecting area could meet the daily drinking water needs of one person. In production, they think a system built to serve the needs of a family might be built for around $100.

The researchers plan further experiments to continue to optimize the choice of materials and configurations, and to test the durability of the system under realistic conditions. They also will work on translating the design of their lab-scale device into a something that would be suitable for use by consumers. The hope is that it could ultimately play a role in alleviating water scarcity in parts of the developing world where reliable electricity is scarce but seawater and sunlight are abundant.

The research team included Bangjun Li, Chenxi Wang and Ruzhu Wang at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Bikram Bhatia, Kyle Wilke, Youngsup Song, Omar Labban, and John Lienhard, who is the Abdul Latif Jameel Professor of Water at MIT. The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, and the MIT Tata Center for Technology and Design.

11 solar projects to the first round of Government’s renewable electricity support scheme

  • The project portfolio announced today marks the first phase of the overall €300 million investment announced by the joint venture in January
  • The 11 projects are located in eight counties throughout Ireland
  • Over 200 jobs to be created in the construction of the projects
  • The joint venture has secured a pipeline of projects that will bring the total capacity of the overall portfolio to more than 500 MW, which will be submitted in subsequent rounds of the RESS process


30 April 2020: Shannon Energy powered by Obton has today announced the 11 projects that will be entered into the first round of the Government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction, for which the qualification period closes today (30th April). The acquisition of these 11 solar energy projects will represent an investment of over €60 million in the Irish solar energy sector when developed and will deliver 105 MW of solar power to homes throughout the country.

Shannon Energy powered by Obton is a joint venture between Obton, a Danish solar photovoltaic (PV) business, and its Irish partner Shannon Energy. The project portfolio announced today marks the first phase in the Danish-Irish joint venture’s overall €300 million investment to provide over 500 MW of renewable solar power in Ireland over the next five years.

Projects in this portfolio are situated in eight counties throughout Ireland, with sites located in Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Longford, Galway, Offaly, Meath and Tipperary.  The combined 105 MW of power generated will be enough to fulfil the yearly energy requirements of up to 20,000 households. It is expected that more than 200 jobs will be created in the construction of the solar photovoltaic (PV) technology on approximately 400 acres.

In addition to the 11 projects announced today, Shannon Energy powered by Obton has secured a pipeline of projects that will bring the total capacity of the overall portfolio to more than 500 MW, which will be submitted in subsequent rounds of the RESS process.

Commenting on the announcement, Noel Shannon, CEO of Shannon Energy, said:

“Shannon Energy are delighted to have worked with Obton to secure these 11 projects and to submit them for qualification in the first RESS auction. We hope we are successful in all of these projects in the auction in July as that would allow us to proceed rapidly with the rest of the portfolio in subsequent auctions.”

Gerry Shannon, Chairman of Shannon Energy, added:

“By participating in the RESS auctions we are marking a significant contribution towards achieving the Government’s goal of 70% electricity production from renewable sources by 2030.”

Anders Marcus, CEO of Obton, said:

“These 11 new projects are an important milestone in our work to realise a sustainable future for energy generation in Ireland, and in our partnership with Shannon Energy we are developing a pipeline of further projects from around the country, with the combined capacity to deliver over 500 MW of renewable power.  We foresee that the diversity of this portfolio will allow it to serve as a secure source of power for the grid throughout Ireland, and we look forward to managing this contribution with Shannon Energy for many years to come.”

PV Solar Panels: Efficient Power Systems with Excellent Low Light Performance

Photovoltaic (PV) solar panel systems are a highly reliable type of power system perfect for use throughout Ireland. PV solar panels provide homeowners with maximum energy production even in low light conditions and challenging weather.

Utilising a robust and efficient design, PV solar panels will help you reduce energy bills by providing access to an unlimited energy source.

What are PV Solar Panels?

The PV solar panel system is a power system that captures solar energy from the sun through use of photovoltaics. Sunlight is absorbed through the solar panels and then directly converted into electricity. A solar inverter is used to alternate the current from DC to AC and supply your home with electricity.

PV solar panels are suitable for homes with limited space as PV solar panel units are capable of producing high yields of electricity. PV solar panels are typically roof-top mounted and can generate up to 165 W/m2 power density. This type of power system works well even on mornings, evenings and cloudy days.

This is due to the PV solar panels’ design, which features advanced surface and black surface texturing placed atop a black frame and backsheet. The design enables PV solar panels to capture the maximum amount of daily sunlight possible.

The PV solar panel system is highly reliable thanks to the its robust housing, and can withstand even the most challenging of weather conditions such as 35mm hail stones travelling at 97 km/h. All PV solar panel systems are required to pass an electroluminescence inspection, and are subject to over 30 in-house tests including UV, TC, HF and more.

Installing a photovoltaic solar panel system is a smart way to save money on your energy bills, and these highly efficient and reliable power systems are perfect for homeowners with limited space,

How 139 Countries Could Be Powered by 100% Renewable Energy by 2050

Scientists have published a detailed road map to move 139 countries to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, according to a recent study.

Energy experts at Stanford University reported that using wind, solar, geothermal and water (hydropower, tidal and wave) energy to electrify all economic sectors that need power to operate — including the electric grid itself, transportation, heating and cooling, industrial, and the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries — would significantly reduce energy consumption, decrease deaths from air pollution, create millions of jobs, stabilize energy prices and save trillions of dollars on health care and climate-related costs.

“We have individual plans for each of the 139 countries, and these represent more than 99 percent of all of the emissions worldwide,” Mark Jacobson, director of Stanford University’s Atmosphere and Energy program, told Live Science. [Top 10 Craziest Environmental Ideas]

The study looked at the world’s energy needs, beginning with 2012 and projecting out to 2050. In 2012, the world used 12.105 terawatts (TW) of energy, which is equal to 12.105 trillion watts. By 2050, the world will need 20.604 TW if nothing changes and every country continues with the same approach it currently uses to meet energy demand, the researchers wrote in the study.

But if those same business sectors were to turn to renewable energy sources to electrify their all of their power requirements, the world would need just 11.804 TW to meet global power demands, according to the study. This is because electricity is more efficient than combustion, according to the researchers.

In a video explaining the main points of the study, Jacobson offered an example: In an electric car, he said, 80 to 82 percent of the electricity used goes toward moving the car; the rest is wasted as heat. In a gasoline-powered vehicle, on the other hand, only 17 to 20 percent of the energy in the fuel goes toward moving the car, and the rest is wasted as heat, he said.

Energy is also needed to mine, refine and transport fossil fuels. As such, switching to 100 percent renewable energy would eliminate these energy-intensive and environmentally destructive processes, the report authors said.

Road map for the future

In their study, Jacobson and his colleagues show how wind, water, geothermal and solar power can meet the worldwide demand for 11.804 TW of energy while avoiding the predicted global temperature increase of 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2050. The researchers outline how doing so would save the lives of 4 million to 7 million people who might have otherwise died from diseases caused by air pollution, save countries more than $20 trillion overall in health and climate costs, and produce a net increase of more than 24 million long-term jobs.

“It seems like a no-brainer to me,” Jacobson told Live Science.

The study builds on previous work from Jacobson, who began his career as a research scientist trying to understand how air pollution affects the climate. He said that in the early years, he focused on the problems, but by around 1999, he started looking at solutions.

In 2009, Jacobson and Mark Delucchi, a research scientist at the Institute of Transportation Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, published a study in Scientific American that outlined a plan to power the world with 100 percent renewable energy.

In the ensuing years, Jacobson and Delucchi worked on follow-up studies that examined these issues at the state level, and the researchers have now expanded that research to 139 countries. Detailed energy data for the remaining 59 countries in the world did not exist and thus could not be included in the study, the scientists said.

The overall cost of transitioning to an infrastructure of 100 percent renewable energy — a plan that sees countries moving first to 80 percent renewable energy by 2030 — may, at first glance, seemcost-prohibitive, but Jacobson and his team have crunched those numbers, too.

Jacobson said that, when averaged over all countries, the cost of building renewable energy systems, including storage and transmission, is 8.9 centsper kilowatt-hour (kWh). In a world that doesn’t transition and keeps the current fossil-fuel system, the cost is 9.8 cents/kWh.

And that doesn’t include the cost to society.

Climate change’s price

Fossil-fuel energy comes with health- and climate-related costs. The authors estimate that by 2050, countries will spend upwards of $28 trillion per year in costs for environmental, property, and human health issues related to global warmingincludingfloods, real-estate destruction, agricultural loss, drought, wildfires, heat stress and stroke, air pollution, influenza, malaria, dengue fever, famine, ocean acidification and more. [5 Ways Climate Change Will Affect Your Health]

And if the world takes no action to address climate change and ice continues to melt at Earth’s poles at the current pace, 7 percent of the world’s coastlines will be underwater, Jacobson said.

Jacobson said the total societal cost of renewable energy — which includes the cost of health and climate issues, as well as the direct cost of energy for wind, water and solar power — is about one-fourth that of fossil fuels.

“In other worlds, you reduce the total cost to society by about 75 percent,” he said. “The cost benefits of this are huge.”

Several countries are already moving toward a renewable energy portfolio to meet 100 percent of their power demands for all business sectors, according to the study. The list includes Tajikistan (76.0 percent), Paraguay (58.9 percent), Norway (35.8 percent), Sweden (20.7 percent), Costa Rica (19.1 percent), Switzerland (19.0 percent), Georgia (18.7 percent), Montenegro (18.4 percent) and Iceland (17.3 percent).

So far, the United States has just 4.2 percent of its total electricity generated by renewable sources. But the country has an advantage, according to the researchers. The study found that countries like the U.S., with more land per population size, would have the easiest time making the transition. Countries expected to have the most difficult time are those that are small, geographically, but have very large populations. Countries such as Singapore, Gibraltar and Hong Kong will have the biggest challenges transitioning to 100 renewable energy, according to Jacobson.

Still, there are ways to solve the problem, he said. These regions could turn to offshore wind energy, or they could exchange energy with a neighboring country, he added.

“With this information, we’re giving confidence to countries that they can be self-sufficient,” Jacobson said. “I’m hoping that different countries will commit to 100 percent renewable energy [by 2050] and 80 percent by 2030.”

4 Million Solar Panels Seen from Space

On the Tibetan Plateau in eastern China, 4 million solar panels silently soak up the sun as part of the Longyangxia Dam Solar Park. It’s the largest solar farm in the world, spreading over 10 square miles of the high desert landscape.

The complex sprung into existence in 2013 and has been rapidly expanding ever since. Satellite imagery curated by NASA’s Earth Observatory chronicles its growth from a cluster of panels to a sprawling solar farm that looks like a giant, angular thought bubble as of January 2017.

The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park is one piece of the massive renewable energy revolution taking place in China. The country invested $103 billion into renewables in 2015, the last year with data available. That helped the world set arenewable investment high water mark of $286 billion.

According to Greenpeace’s Energydesk, preliminary 2016 data show China installed the equivalent of one and a half soccer fields of solar panels every hour. That puts the country on track to meet its 2020 renewable goals sometime in 2018.

The renewables targets line up with China’s international climate commitments. The government previously announced it would lower the carbon intensity of its economy 40-45 percent below 2005 levels. Under the Paris Agreement, China has pledged to peak its carbon dioxide emissions by 2030.

Looking ahead, the government announced in early January that it plans to spend $361 billion on renewable power generation from now through 2020. The influx of cash is expected to help China produce a total of 110 gigawatts of solar power and 210 gigawatts of wind power by 2020.

The increase in investment coincides with a 40 percent drop in the cost of installing utility-scale solar in China since 2010. Solar is expected to become even cheaper in the coming years, further creating more bang for China’s buck (or yuan as the case may be).

Despite the growth in capacity, China has struggled to balance demand and production. An economic slowdown has caused some solar and wind farms to sit idle or produce energy that can’t be used. Local governments and strong coal interests also present obstacles to China’s transition from the world’s biggest carbon polluter to an economy largely powered by clean energy.

China continues to see its emissions rise due largely to heavy coal use, which will increase the risks associated with climate change. The Longyangxia Dam Solar Park is a step toward ensuring China has the capacity to change that.

Minister Humphreys announces supports for businesses impacted by COVID-19

Just last week the Minister of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI), Heather Humphreys TD, announced details on the package of supports she has put in place for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Minister Humphreys said, “I know that this is a worrying time for all businesses in Ireland and I want to assure them that my Department and agencies are working on their behalf to develop and deliver a range of supports to help them through this rapidly evolving situation.

The Minister continued, “I am hearing from many businesses that they are very concerned about their cashflow in the coming weeks. I want to reassure them that there are a number of schemes that can help them meet their short-term working capital and liquidity needs.”


The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation have put a range of supports in place, including:

  • A €200m Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) Working Capital scheme for eligible businesses impacted by COVID-19. Loans of up to €1.5m will be available at reduced rates, with up to the first €500,000 unsecured. Applications can be made through the SBCI website
  • A €200m Package for Enterprise Supports including a Rescue and Restructuring Scheme available through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms that need to restructure or transform their business.
  • The maximum loan available from MicroFinance Ireland will be increased from €25,000 to €50,000 as an immediate measure to specifically deal with exceptional circumstances that micro-enterprises – (sole traders and firms with up to 9 employees) – are facing. Applications can be made through the MFI website or through your local LEO.
  • The Credit Guarantee Scheme will be available to COVID-19 impacted firms through the Pillar Banks. Loans of up to €1m will be available at terms of up to 7 years.


Minister Humphreys also highlighted the following supports for firms experiencing trading difficulties and short-term shocks:

  • The Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection and the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation will provide a joint First Responder support service through the Intreo Offices and development agencies, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland in each region to provide tailored supports for impacted firms, with objective of avoiding mass lay-offs and buying time for firms to work through the short-term disruptions.

Firms that need to reduce hours or days worked can avail of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection Short Term Work Support by contacting their local Intreo Office, see

Irish Solar Energy Association welcomes publication of RESS Terms and Conditions

The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) welcomes the publication of the final terms and conditions for the first auction of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). The first auction (RESS-1) is scheduled to take place in July this year in line with timelines set out in 2019 by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE) and EirGrid.

RESS marks a historic first in offering Government support to the Irish solar industry. The support scheme will be administered through an auction mechanism. The primary goal of the scheme is to assist the installation of renewable projects in Ireland working towards the 2030 energy target of 70% renewable penetration. Successful renewable projects will be awarded a Government-backed contract for power produced enabling projects to obtain capital to begin installation.

DCCAE held a consultation on the draft RESS-1 terms and conditions in January. In its consultation response, ISEA highlighted the key issues affecting its’ members and the solar industry as; indexation, a limited solar quota, forecast curtailment and negative pricing. The final terms and conditions do not allow for indexation. Without indexation, the auction strike prices will be higher as generators price in their costs, subject to inflation, and debt providers apply conservative assumptions to size debt. These increased costs will be passed through to the PSO levy. In addition, project financers will use conservative assumptions to size their debt. Several additional factors will influence the auction price with the major consideration being grid costs; Ireland has among the highest grid specifications and associated charges in Europe.

“ISEA very much welcomes the measures proposed and the ambition of the Climate Action Plan. We are encouraged that Minister Bruton demonstrated real leadership in Climate Change and is seeking to decarbonise our economy. We are nonetheless disappointed that the terms and conditions in the initial auction for renewable energy may have unintended consequences leading to consumers paying a higher price on the PSO levy. The lack of indexation has an obvious impact on the initial price bid in the auction for wind and solar. Other uncertainties in the auction are likely to lead to a higher price as bidder’s price in uncertainty such as DUOS and TUOS charges, negative pricing, curtailment and local authority rates.” – David Maguire, Chairman ISEA

RESS-1 will afford a 10% allocation for solar projects; this will result in solar comprising circa 2% of the total wind energy currently on the system. In order to successfully diversify the electricity network, technology specific auctions are required. This approach has already been successfully applied in the German market. As of 2019, 1500 megawatts (MW) of solar projects are ready for installation in Ireland.

Globally, solar energy power prices are breaking records and over the past ten years the cost of solar PV has decreased by 80% while the technology has improved. It is imperative that solar PV is fully considered as a viable alternative to wind. A diverse energy mix is the key to decarbonisation and ensuring Ireland has a secure and robust electricity network.

Currently, RESS is the only policy measure in place to support large scale renewable deployment in Ireland. Through its implementation, RESS sends positive signals to industry and will lead to increased investment in Ireland. However, the current proposals for RESS-1 will result in the largest projects receiving support. Future auctions must take place in a timely manner, providing certainty for market participants and support for projects of all sizes.

Veolia help Group Water Scheme launch solar energy project

Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme (GWS), working with Veolia, has become the first Group Water Scheme to use renewable energy to directly power its water treatment plant. Located near Elphin, County Roscommon, the site will be able to reduce energy costs by 70%, and cut carbon emissions, following the launch of a new solar panel project. The photovoltaic (PV) system will directly help the environment by reducing CO2 emissions and enable the local community to benefit from water treatment cost savings.


Polecat Springs GWS supplies water to rural properties covering 80 square kilometres stretching from Elphin Town northwards to Carrick on Shannon and from Ballinameen eastwards to the River Shannon and is operated as a community co-operative. Installation of the new solar panels means electricity, which was previously drawn from the National Grid, will now be used to power the various stages of the water treatment process.


The solar panels were chosen as they provided the best solution due to the location of the site and the amount of electricity required. In addition, there is also the future possibility to integrate battery storage at the site, which has the potential to make the water treatment plant 100% self-sufficient.


Operated under a contract by Veolia, the project has been supported by the Federation Of Group Water Schemes and been backed by a Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant covering 50% of the investment. The resultant energy cost savings will enable the project to pay for itself within six years, and the project was installed by Veolia, Clár ICH and Eco Smart.


Joe Higgins, Regional Director, Veolia added: “While developments similar to the one at Polecat Springs have been done at a municipal level, this is the first GWS that is using sustainable energy to power its water treatment plant operations. Veolia is delighted to have been involved in the project and we hope that more water schemes will invest in sustainable energy in the future.”


Eugene Cummins, Chief Executive, Roscommon County Council said: “It is great to see the community around Polecat Springs investing in a more sustainable future that will see significant savings in energy and will contribute in a very positive way to climate change at a local level. This community initiative is an example to all and hopefully other schemes and communities will follow the example set by the Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme”


The Group Water Schemes’ Programme was introduced in 1962 to provide grant aid to rural communities for the construction of water distribution systems from local water sources. Communities set up voluntary co-operative structures known as Group Water Schemes to privately manage these water systems, with operating costs funded through contributions from Group members and Central Government subsidies.



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Public Bodies Meet at SEAI Conference to Accelerate Progress to 2030 Energy Targets

  • Key note speaker, Former President, Mary Robinson, calls on the public sector to show leadership in climate action
  • 800 public representatives gather to progress energy efficiency and carbon reducing targets
  • Public bodies have saved over €1.3 billion on energy spend and avoided 4.6 million tonnes of CO2 emissions since 2009.

800 representatives from public bodies and government departments today attended the fourth annual Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) public sector conference at the Helix in DCU to advance their energy efficiency gains. This year’s conference focused on accelerating leadership in the public sector towards the Government’s energy efficiency and CO2 reduction targets.  The Government’s Climate Action Plan published last year sets out an ambitious vision for the public sector to achieve 50% energy efficiency improvement, 30% CO2 reduction and all public buildings to be B-rated by 2030.


Opening the conference today, William Walsh, CEO of SEAI said:

“We have seen excellent work in the public sector with €1.3 billion in energy savings in the last decade. However, we need to rapidly decarbonise our 350 public bodies and 3,700 schools in the next decade and move away from fossil fuels. This will require unprecedented effort, leadership, resources and collaboration in the sector.”


The keynote address at the conference was given by former President, Mary Robinson, who spoke of the challenges facing our society if we continue with our current energy use.


Attendees at the conference learned about strategic project financing, transitioning to electric fleets and achieving high performance buildings, among other topics.  Evidence from SEAI showed that the winning formula to achieving energy targets is sustained senior management leadership, resources and continuous investment and improvement. Thirty public bodies are already certified to the international standard on energy management, ISO 50001, and are excelling in energy efficiency. While just over half of organisations have achieved, or on track to achieve, their 2020 energy targets, just under half will need to refocus their efforts to get on track.


Concluding, William Walsh said:

“As a nation, we can no longer be complacent about climate action. Our citizens expect that every public organisation will have a workable plan to help decarbonise our society. Only when there’s commitment like this, will we see the change that’s needed.”