Irish solar power pipeline continues to swell as confidence grows

20 February 2017 07:02 Source:ICIS

The number of applications for large-scale solar power projects to be connected to the Irish grid before 2020 has doubled over the last five months, as market confidence that the government is poised to subsidise the industry continues to grow.

The projects in question range in size between 25MW and 95MW and now total almost 1.2GW in capacity. Assuming a approximate load factor of 11%, solar generation could therefore account for around 10% of Irish peak system demand if all projects are ultimately connected to the grid.

A total of 22 separate applications have now been lodged with transmission system operator (TSO) EirGrid for connection of high-capacity photovoltaic (PV) projects to the all-island Irish transmission network, according to latest TSO data.

This represents a significant increase over recent months and is indicative of expanding interest in Ireland’s nascent solar power industry (see EDEM 13 September 2016).

There are currently no solar farms connected to the all-island Irish transmission system. Smaller projects are conventionally connected to local distribution networks as opposed to the central grid.

Incentive

The continued surge in solar grid applications has been fuelled by expectation that the government will soon announce that it will be handing out attractive subsidies for large-scale solar projects.

The subsidies are expected under a new government support scheme for renewable generation projects, which was announced by what is now known as the department of communications, climate action and environment, in the summer of 2015 (see EDEM 05 August 2015).

The first phase of a public consultation on the scheme took place in the third quarter of 2015, with the second stage originally expected to follow soon after. However, this was initially delayed until Q1 2017 (see EDEM 13 September 2016).

The date of the consultation has now been pushed back further. A spokeswoman for the department told ICIS it was now expected during the second quarter of 2017.

The spokeswoman said that the government still anticipated that support under the scheme would become available before the end of 2017, but did not disclose any specifics of what would be made available.

It is believed that such subsidies will be rolled out to help the country hit its EU target of meeting 16% of electricity demand with renewable-generated power by 2020. christopher.somers@icis.com

By Christopher Somers