Solar panels and land eligibility under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be examined on an individual basis, the Department of Agriculture has said.
Over 1,750ha of solar panels are due to be constructed this year, supported under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.
In a statement to the Irish Farmers Journal, the Department said solar panels will be considered as an ineligible feature on BPS claims this year.
This means that, where solar panels are constructed on a parcel, the area under the panels is expected to be deducted from the total eligible area of that parcel. This is in order to take account of the impact of the panels on forage availability.
If the total area of the solar panels, including the supporting structures and other ineligible features such as scrub, rock, hardcore or roadways, reduce the area of a parcel by less than 70%, an appropriate percentage reduction will be made to the eligible area.
However, if the eligible area in a parcel is reduced by more than 70%, then a reduction of 100% is made. This will deem the whole parcel ineligible.
Land with solar panels can only be considered eligible where an agricultural activity takes place and is not hampered, eg grazing with sheep. It must also have independent access. However, access over adjoining landowners’ land, or over land which is subject to a lease or rental agreement to another person, is not acceptable.
All agricultural land used to claim BPS must be owned, leased or rented, and used and managed by the applicant.
If a farmer retains ownership of the land, but leases it out to a third party to install solar panels, and wants to continue to farm it, the farmer must have a written agreement with the third party in order for the parcel to be considered eligible.