Elgin in €400m Irish solar farm investment plan

Elgin Energy, a solar energy developer, has said that it plans to spend up to €400m developing solar farms in Ireland over the next five years.

The company, which has been in Ireland since 2015, has a pipeline of about 500 megawatts (MW) of projects that it hopes to deliver into the energy system by the mid-2020s.

The 500MW of solar projects will provide enough clean electricity to power more than 140,000 homes, 220,000 electric vehicles annually and offset 275,000 tonnes of carbon per year.

Ronan Kilduff, managing director of Elgin Energy in Ireland, said that it was important Ireland developed a mix of renewable power projects and did not just focus on wind.

“We can’t just keep delivering wind,” he said. “In this new decarbonised energy environment, it has to be a portfolio approach, which is wind, solar and storage.

“That portfolio approach will deliver the new energy economy. We are focused on solar and don’t work with any other technology.

“In terms of continuing investment in Ireland, we are continuing to develop projects. We are continuing to take the view that delivers projects for the 2030 targets.”

Kilduff said he does not expect any of the projects to be grid-connected until 2022.

In June of this year, the first auction of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is scheduled to take place.

The scheme invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity and receive a guaranteed price for electricity they generate.

Solar will be afforded a 10pc carve-out in the first auction. Kilduff said Elgin Energy had several projects that were eligible for this scheme.

Elgin is aiming to participate in the upcoming round with about 80MW worth of projects, representing an investment of up to €60m.

Kilduff added that the money the company uses to develop solar farms in Ireland would be coming from investors such as utility companies or pension funds. He said he was talking to these investors on a “monthly basis” for all the projects across Ireland, the UK and Australia – including with Danish utility Orsted and senior investment funds like Blackrock.

Last month, Elgin closed its fourth fundraising round for £4.7m (€5.5m) in partnership with Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.

The funding was obtained from Irish investors and will provide capital to complete the development of 250MW of solar projects in the UK.

The fundraising round was the second successful raise completed in partnership with Cantor Fitzgerald Ireland.

The first round with Cantor Fitzgerald was closed in June 2019 and raised £4.3m (€5m).

Kilduff is planning another funding round for UK projects. It is planning to raise another €5m through Cantor Fitzgerald’s Ireland channels before the summer.

“Ireland is the only market we are participating in an auction,” he said. “That’s huge. The market is maturing; we need to move beyond subsidy.

“We were in this subsidy-driven piece, but we now are competing head-on with fossil fuels.”

Elgin Energy has delivered operational solar farms across the UK with an output of more than 230MW. This portfolio includes Scotland’s largest operational solar farm and Bann Road in Northern Ireland, which has a capacity of 46MW.

As of 2020, Elgin Energy has successfully obtained planning permission for 650MW across 55 projects.

A further two gigawatts worth of projects are at late stages of development across the UK, Ireland and Australia.