The Irish Solar Energy Association (ISEA) is calling on the Government to allow farmers to install more solar panels on their land without affecting agricultural reliefs when transferring the farm.
According to the ISEA, relatively cost-neutral changes to Ireland’s tax codes could dramatically increase the availability of land that could be used as solar farms, providing new income streams to farmers and supporting the country’s renewable targets.
Releasing its 2024 pre-budget submission, the ISEA has called on the Government to address current barriers to farmers becoming involved in solar energy.
ISEA CEO Conall Bolger said: “Ireland has an ambitious target to reach 8GW of solar energy by 2030. Some 25,000 acres will be required to reach this target, which equates to just 0.2% of Ireland’s farmland,” he said.
Bolger warned that a “bureaucratic barrier” is preventing many farmers from availing of this opportunity to diversify their income.
“Farming families can avail of important tax exemptions that allow land to be passed on to the next generation without punitive tax bills. However, this does not apply in instances where more than 50% of land is utilised by solar panels,” he said.
“This arbitrary rule has a chilling effect on the number of farmers in a position to consider supporting climate action through solar power.
"Understandably, many farmers will not consider leasing land for solar farms if they are concerned it will cost their family significant amounts of money in the future,” he said.
The ISEA is calling on Government to address this by lifting the 50% solar PV restriction on capital acquisitions tax agriculture relief.
Similarly, it wants amendments to the tax codes to allow capital gains tax retirement relief to apply to land in use as a solar farm.
Bolger described these proposals as a common-sense measure.
“There is a clear need to make land available for solar energy projects, while farmers are also looking for ways to play a positive role in climate action.
“These current restrictions effectively prevent many farmers from becoming involved, but generate little or no revenue for the State - thus their abolition will have no material impact on exchequer funding,” he concluded.