Farmers are set to miss out on the credit for reducing emissions from installing solar PV systems on their farms, as the drive to roll out the technology throughout agriculture intensifies.

Electricity in Ireland is generated from a range of sources, including oil, gas, coal, and renewables. The proportion of each source used determines the carbon intensity of our electricity. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), in 2021, every kilowatt-hour of electricity used produced 331 grams of CO2.

Solar panels produce carbon-neutral electricity, assuming that the emissions associated with manufacturing and installation are not included. Therefore, for every kilowatt of solar electricity a farmer produces on their farm, they displace one kilowatt of imported electricity, saving 331g of CO2 and reducing the overall carbon intensity of their farm.

According to Teagasc, emissions from on-farm electricity use are very low, amounting to around 200,000t of CO2, which accounted for less than 1% of total emissions in the sector in 2021.

However, as the agriculture sector aims to reduce emissions by 25% under the Climate Action Plan by 2030, every potential emission reduction is valuable. Yet, any reductions achieved by on-farm solar PV will not be credited to agriculture. Instead, they will contribute to the electricity sector’s target of reducing emissions by 75%.


That said, on-farm renewable electricity production will align with the AgClimatise target of achieving a 20% reduction in agricultural energy use and deploying at least 20% renewable energy technologies by 2030. However, as this report shows, there are significant gaps in data collection, monitoring and accounting of on-farm solar PV installations, and communication between all bodies involved is poor.

How has this fallen through the cracks?

The number of solar PV systems installed on farms to date is still relatively small. While we don’t know the exact amount, the push towards solar PV really only intensified in the past number of years. Regardless, it appears as though the amount of electricity generated from on-farm solar PV and the associated emissions reduction credit has not been accounted for, at least, not in its entirety.

On-farm renewable electricity production will align with the AgClimatise target of achieving a 20% reduction in agricultural energy use and deploying at least 20% renewable energy technologies by 2030.

A farmer can purchase a solar PV system outright or can avail of a range of grant supports.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC) has a number of grant aid options which are administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI). These grants include a one-off €2,400 grant, the Better Energy Communities (BEC) programme, and the EXCEED programme.

The Irish Farmers Journal contacted DECC and asked how data from renewable electricity generation and consumption on farms is sourced and accounted for. DECC stated that this query had been redirected to the press office in the Department of Agriculture (DAFM).

When the Irish Farmers Journal contacted DAFM, it said this query would be for DECC and the SEAI. DAFM is responsible for administering TAMS, which provides up to 60% grant aid on solar PV systems for farms.

We then spoke to the SEAI, which gathers data on energy-related emissions across the sectors, including agriculture, which is then reported to the EPA. The EPA compiles and reports on Ireland’s overall national greenhouse gas emissions across all sectors. The SEAI said it only accounts for rooftop solar PV funded under BEC funding, which amounted to just 1.2MW in 2021. At the time of talking to the Irish Farmers Journal, the SEAI did not have access to data on TAMS-funded panels.

The CSO said it publishes data on electricity consumption based on ESB meters, as well as prices paid by consumers, but it can’t distinguish between farms and other businesses.

As a result, data regarding installed on-farm solar PV, except for BER-funded panels, is not collected, and emissions savings are not included in any inventory. Rather, these savings are attributed to an overall reduction in energy use that is associated with the electricity sector.

Should savings be attributed to agriculture?

Farmers who sell electricity through the grid and receive a premium for it should not receive the emissions reduction credit because customers already pay a premium for green electricity to offset their own emissions. This would result in double counting. However, farmers who install solar panels funded under TAMS generally cannot sell significant amounts of excess electricity to the grid.

Therefore, since this renewable electricity is produced and consumed on farms, it is fair to attribute the emissions savings to the agricultural sector.

Moreover, if other TAMS-funded measures, such as low-emission slurry spreading technology, contribute to reducing agriculture’s emissions, the same should be true for solar panels or any other renewable technology funded under TAMS.

However, as the example in this article shows, while attributing emissions savings from farm renewable electricity use is morally right, it wouldn’t amount to much.

What will TAMS III offset

The Solar Capital Investment Scheme under TAMS III has an indicative budget of €90m to cover up to 60% of the cost of a solar PV system.

The size of a solar PV system that will be grant-aided under TAMS III will vary considerably depending on the farm type and location.

However, assuming an average size of 15kWp (peak output of kilowatts), which would require 113m2 of roof space, this would cost around €1,441 per installed kilowatt plus €1,849, based on the Department’s reference costs.

For the purposes of this example, we assume no batteries were purchased. That gives a total cost of €23,464, of which €14,078 could be grant-aided. Therefore, the €90 million SCIS budget could support nearly 6,400 applications for a 15kWp solar PV system, or a total of 96MWp of solar generation.

Would it make a difference?

On average, 96MWp of solar PV on an east-west orientation will produce approximately 84,000,000kWh of electricity each year. If the emissions used to manufacture and install the solar panels are not factored in, this amount of solar PV would save almost 28,000t of CO2 annually, based on the EPA’s figure for the carbon intensity of Irish electricity. Over time, this figure would likely decrease as both panel efficiency and the carbon intensity of Irish electricity decreases.

However, this figure pales in comparison to the 23.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emitted by the agricultural sector in 2021 and would barely make a dent on our 25% emissions reduction target.

Increased ambition

If we increase this level of ambition, however, things begin to change. If we assume the average farmyard has a minimum suitable roof space of around 150m2. This would allow for the installation of approximately 20kWp of solar PV panels, which is close to the upper limit that ESB Networks say they can connect to the grid under its new Mini-Generation connection policy on a single-phase connection.

If solar PV panels were installed on the suitable roof space of 130,000 farms, it would cover an area of nearly 4,800ac and accommodate approximately 2,600MW of solar PV panels. This electricity would result in an annual CO2 reduction of over 750,000t, which could practically meet the electricity demand of every home in Dublin. However, some contend that a 20kWp system is a modest target, and doubling it would still be within reach.