Farmers are being offered between €800/ac to €1,200/ac each year to lease land licensed for solar farms to developers as the country ramps up renewable energy capacity, according to Teagasc energy specialist Barry Caslin.

Caslin maintains that energy developers are targeting areas with “low hanging fruit” first when making land rental offers, such as lands near good grid infrastructure and ESB sub-stations.

Farmers can still farm around solar PV installations on land by grazing sheep, and most – but not all – of a farmer’s Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) payment can be kept if this is done, he said.

“You will probably lose about 30% of your entitlements on that land, because the area is covered by panels, which will not be eligible for a BISS payment, so it won’t qualify for entitlements,” Caslin told an Kepak farm walk in Co Roscommon on Thursday last.

“Generally, what they are doing is trying to link up a number of sites together. So you might have 20 acres, another might have 20 acres, another might have 50 acres.

“They are trying to develop economies of scale to justify developing a wind project or a solar project.”

Caslin explained that “knitting all that land together to get 150 acres to 200 acres” could justify solar farms at sufficient scale in areas close to sub-stations.

“Then, down the line, they will be looking at the harder areas, where maybe ESB sub-stations have to be built and the grid network has to be improved to move that electricity from where it is being generated to get it onto the grid.”

The Teagasc specialist also commented that as things stand, farmland with solar panels that is grazed is still subject to agricultural tax reliefs when transferred once the solar farm covers less than 50% of the total farm area.

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