The rise of solar

With much of the attention on the potential for wind, solar generation is also set to play a significant role in Ireland’s renewable energy revolution.

The Government has approved the inclusion of a solar category in RESS, subject to state aid approval, which would represent approximately 10pc of the overall auction.

According to data provided by Stephen Walsh, co-founder of PHR, a market intelligence company, there have been 334 planning applications submitted in Ireland for solar developments, with 263 granted. The research excluded domestic and small-scale commercial/industrial installations.

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

Ronan Kilduff, managing director of Elgin Energy in Ireland, said that solar’s role in the Climate Action Plan would be to help balance the demand the energy system will face.

He believes that the first RESS auction will be for 3,000 gigawatt hours and, on that basis, solar will account for over 10pc.

Kilduff believes that Elgin will have around 80MW of capacity to bid into the auction, which could be worth up to €60m.

“We believe Eirgrid is looking for technology-specific because they don’t want to be taken up with just wind, as it can be harder to manage,” he said.

“If you think about the wind that is already deployed on the Irish system, they want a balanced portfolio approach where solar is more predictable.

“We produce power from sunrise to sunset. The wind portfolio comes on in the late evening and through the night, principally in winter. The value of the solar power curve is very reliable. [It peaks] when industry and the population are up using electricity.”