Over 7,500ac of solar farms have received funding under the country’s second Renewable Electricity Support Scheme 2 (RESS 2) auction.
It equates to 1.53GW or 1,530MW of new solar farms, with each MW requiring approximately 5ac of solar panels.
Wind energy projects were also awarded funding under the auction (14%), bringing the total capacity of the wind and solar projects selected overall to 1.9GW.
Photovoltaic (PV) projects secured the bulk of the awarded capacity and, in all, 11 onshore wind projects totalling 414MW were successful.
According to the provisional auction results announced by EirGrid on Friday, 80 projects won contracts with a guaranteed price for power. They were chosen from a basket of 130 proposals that took part in a competitive procurement process. The cumulative capacity of the received bids was 2.9GW.
The RESS 2 auction guarantees energy pricing for the successful projects with the “average strike price” secured reaching €97.87/MWh. This compares with a price of €74.08/MWh secured in the inaugural 2020 round.
The selected projects have been provisionally approved by Eirgrid, but the results will need to be approved by Government.
The contracts that will be awarded to the 80 projects will provide support for up to 16.5 years and the final auction results are due to be announced on 15 June 2022.
Rooftop solar PV
Meanwhile, on Monday, responding to the RESS 2 announcement, the Micro-Renewable Energy Federation (MREF) called for an immediate review of supports for rooftop solar PV for homes, farms and businesses.
The federation said it is “indefensible” that while the RESS2 supports for large-scale solar farms are “up by nearly 50%”, supports for rooftop solar PV microgeneration are being “reduced, curtailed and withdrawn at the same time”.
MREF chair Pat Smith said: “While it is great to see so much solar PV supported under RESS 2, the massive increases in support levels coming out of RESS2, which are understandable due to escalating costs, are in stark contrast to the regressive supports planned for micro generators and displays confused priorities and a complete disregard of the need to build support among communities and get buy-in and participation from businesses and farmers in climate action.”
Smith called for Government policies and supports for rooftop solar PV installations to be “reviewed immediately and brought into line with the reality of rising technology costs and the need for investors to make a viable return”.
“Rooftop solar offers a highly cost-effective and speedy solution to helping the country decarbonise and deal with the impending energy crisis and supports from Government need to recognise and encourage this,” he said.
‘Prepared to pay’
The MREF chair highlighted that if Government is “prepared to pay circa 11c/kWh for large-scale solar PV power, then they should be offering business and farmer micro-generators closer to 20c/kWh”.
“The current feed-in tariff proposal from Government of 13.5c/kWh fixed payment to develop micro-generation for export to the grid is way too low and must be immediately reviewed upwards to ensure investors into rooftop solar PV can get a reasonable return similar to that offered for large-scale projects.”
Smith pointed out that there is enough roof space in Ireland to build out over 3,000MW of solar PV “without using an acre of good agricultural land”.
“Yet, the Government is choosing to discount this and paying millions in annual supports to foreign utilities and investment funds for large-scale solar while allocating a pittance in comparison to the development of a vibrant, homegrown rooftop micro-generation sector,” he said.