Change is coming and it has been coming for some time. We’ve seen the rapid growth of the solar industry and it’s moved beyond domestic settings and commercial spaces. Solar power companies across the country have projects requiring massively increased capacity for capturing solar energy though PV panels (photovoltaic). This has resulted in a demand and a push for both space and increased investment across Ireland. The knock on effect of that demand has created a rather unique set of opportunities for farmers and landowners to turn a profit outside the usual remits and that is to become a Solar Farm. Here we look at one of the main ways in which to do this. Leasing.
WHO WANTS TO LEASE LAND?
Renewable energy companies are looking for surface rights, projects rights and lease rights so that they can develop Solar Farm installations. Your land might be the perfect fit. If it is, you can lock in consistent, secure and predictable income for decades to come.
WHAT KIND OF LAND IS ATTRACTIVE FOR SOLAR FARMING?
The land can be any shape though solar energy projects tend to be quite large and most will require a minimum number of acres. As a rough guide, 50 acres of clear land seems to be a baseline requirement in most cases, currently.
When we talk about clear land – we mean flat, stable land with little to no obstructions. While trees and bushes can be removed it can increase the overall project cost which can throw a spanner in the works. That said, it does not rule you out.
Risk assessments and reports will be carried out on flooding potential and the proximity of your land to grid access which will make or break a project’s viability. Obviously, access to the site itself is also a key component. Being close to a town or city where the energy produced can be used locally may also be attractive to investors as it indicates a ready consumer base on your doorstep.
HOW DOES IT IMPACT MY FARM?
While it will impact how you use the leased land, in some instances you may be able to continue to farm the land by grazing animals (up to a certain age/size). This will vary from case to case but it’s worth finding out at the beginning of your research.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Once your site has been reviewed and the suitability confirmed it’s time to move on to negotiation. The lease or option agreement, which will be drafted by the developer will cover the key points such as monthly rent, land required and the length of the lease. This is the time at which you need to ensure you’re happy with all the ins and outs of what’s required by the company.
If you’re happy with the agreement, the company will apply for any relevant permissions they need to have. They will lodge a planning application and carry out the relevant reports such as heritage, flora & fauna, environmental, glint & glare or visual impact reports to side step as many potential roadblocks during the application process as possible.
If everything gets the green light, the company will move to install the hardware as per the agreement made which will more than likely be rows of ground mounted panels. Once in place an ongoing maintenance and operations plan will kick into force and your Solar Farm has come into its own.
If you have further questions on Solar Farming, as always, please feel free to get in touch.