The proliferation of solar farms in County Meath has been described as “unfair” by a local farmer.
The county is rich in prime agricultural land and its proximity to Dublin means it is also considered an ideal location for solar farms.
Lorna Lyons and her husband farm in Ratoath and are concerned that too much farmland is being given over to energy production.
“We currently have 5,000 acres of Grade One agricultural land that is approved by Meath County Councils for solar farms,” she told Newstalk reporter Henry McKean for The Pat Kenny Show.
“So, for me, being a Dublin girl that’s the equivalent to 1,000 Croke Park stadiums - all in east Meath alone.”
The Government aims to generate 80% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
Furthermore, the international energy crisis means there is a renewed focus on energy independence and a desire to use cheaper, green power as well.
It is an aspiration that Ms Lyons says she shares.
“I feel that renewable energy is hugely important to all of us and we all see that this is the way to plan for our future,” she said.
“But I feel that the unfairness of putting it all on our doorstep just because of where we are positioned [in relation to] Blanchardstown and Finglas and Dublin.
“So, that it is cheaper for the developers to get the energy from this grid.”
Norwegian company Statkraft is in the process of completing a solar farm in Ballymacarney, Meath that will power 40,000 homes and JP O’Brien, Head of Project Delivery for Solar in Ireland, says it will be the nation’s largest to date.
“It’s a 200 megawatt solar farm covering four different sites, totaling about 600 acres of land,” he said.
“Things are going really well and we hope to be finished with the whole project later on this summer when we’ll be connecting the 200 megawatts to the grid.”
Mr O’Brien said that land in county is high regarded in the renewable energy sector.
“The thing with solar is you need to have good access to the grid and the grid network in County Meath is quite robust,” he said.
“There is availability to connect to the grid - so that’s why this area is of interest to solar developers.
“That said, solar is a very low impact energy source.
“For example, as we were driving around there, you can see it’s not a very installation; the back of the panels is about two and a half metres and typically the hedgerows around this area are also two and a half metres, three metres.
“So, for most people who aren’t trained, they will drive past these solar panels without even knowing they’re there.”
In 2021, Ireland generated 34.7% of its energy from renewable sources - down from a high of 42.3% in 2020.
Main image: A solar farm. Picture by: Alamy.com