John Murphy owns a dairy farm in the small rural village of Dripsey in Co. Cork. In January 2022, he applied for the Irish Farming Association (IFA) and Bord Gáis Energy’s solar energy pilot call. Bord Gáis Energy is the largest energy services business in Ireland. The purpose of the pilot was to establish the commercial feasibility of the installation of rooftop solar technology on Irish farms.
The solar PV system consists of 32 panels, with a 6 kW inverter, and currently produces 10,000 kW on an annual basis. 70% of this energy is used for self-consumption, and 30% is sold back to the grid. The solar system has been running for nearly one year.
The installation cost was €15,300, with John only paying a third of the price; the rest was subsidised by the IFA and Bord Gáis Energy. Crucially, with his solar panels, John believes that he is saving on his electricity consumption from the grid. Another plus is that there is very little maintenance cost and John’s PV system will have a long lifespan of 25-30 years.
In Ireland, John believes that the administrative and planning process is simple. The Irish government has changed the legislation to exempt solar farms from requiring planning permission from An Bord Pleanála, Ireland's national independent planning body. The installation itself only took 2 days.
John asserts that the Irish government must intervene further to reduce the installation costs for the average citizen. He also emphasises the positive impact of the expedited permit-granting process. Without a minimum 50% grant or subsidy, he argues that solar installation will remain unaffordable for the wider population.
Greatly encouraged by his PV system, John plans to install a total of 50 solar panels with a 17 kW inverter, and potentially a battery storage system. His target is to generate at least 20,000 kWh on his farm.
“There’s no issue with installing solar in a farm setting. For society as a whole, it’s important that we get as many solar panels installed as possible around Ireland and Europe so that we lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.”