Solar agriculture announcements have become a regular feature on business pages in recent years.
Last week, the board of Guess Energy and Amarenko struck a deal to build eight solar farms in Cork.
Such developments should be welcomed by all. Ireland is in dire need of clean energy, and many farmers are in dire need of a new income source.
Despite this, there are question marks over how solar farms will develop in Ireland and who will benefit from it.
As Martin O’Sullivan writes, farmers must consider several financial implications before committing to solar development – and the decisions taken today could have long-term consequences for farmers and their heirs.
A flexible tax code is a major impediment to solar agriculture development, and the state must decide whether to encourage them.
Solar farms can also cause tension in rural communities, just as wind farms and transmission cables have done in the past. The last thing the country needs is neighbors falling out with each other and communities up in arms over developments that will wean us off fossil fuels.
The planning system related to solar farms seems to be a complete gray area, and here too, the government must step in and ensure that the public interest is protected.
An obvious first step is to eliminate the bureaucracy of installing solar panels on roofs.
Climate change can be one of those problems where everyone agrees that change is needed – unless it affects them personally.
Ireland needs to shift its energy system away from fossil fuels, and solar farms will be part of that mix.
Greater community participation and ownership in solar agricultural development may offer solutions to many of these issues.
Indeed, the success of the cooperative structure in dairies provides an ideal template for how all renewable energy, not just solar, can be rolled out in Ireland.
Faceless multinational corporations dominate today’s energy system on which we all depend heavily. Maybe there is some other way.