Solar Energy

The Irish solar energy sector has seen considerable activity in the last 3-4 years without yet seeing any grid-scale solar project constructed. Solar’s time will undoubtedly come given how technology costs have fallen and will eventually become competitive with other renewable technologies in Ireland, with or without price supports.

With lower capacity factors and higher grid connection costs, Irish solar PV projects will need all the last-mover advantages they can get to make them competitive in future RESS auctions. Minimising costs and maximising design flexibility will be key to delivering viable projects. From the earliest stage of an Irish solar PV project with so many unknowns and uncertainties, no project can be guaranteed to be viable but some wrong decisions can certainly make a project unviable. Developers need planning permissions that are future-proofed and provide design flexibility to take account of changing technological requirements, EPC contractors’ needs or a grid connection offer’s specifications.

While solar applications to-date have not attracted any significant levels of local opposition, a single objection, appeal and judicial review can still give rise to considerable project delays that could result in knock-on delays for the next ECP process and future RESS auctions. Solar developers will want to avoid the difficulties associated with wind farm grid connections and avoid having to re-enter the planning process to secure permission for the solar project’s grid connection method nominated by the system operator.

With grid connection applications already submitted for thousands of megawatts of solar and over 1GW of planning permissions now in or successfully through the planning process, the industry is likely to see some further consolidation of these assets in preparation for RESS auctions or as some investors seek to realise a return on their early-stage investment. One constant will remain, the projects with the lowest build costs and most flexible and all-encompassing planning permissions, will be most competitive at auction or most sought after

Solar Energy – Key Services

Planning Applications/Project Management

We manage the entire planning permission application process, or provide key inputs and planning advice. From advice at the pre-planning stage, through to preparing and managing the planning application or responding to further information requests, we help applicants or their project teams navigate a project through the planning process.

We can either lead the planning-phase design team or are equally happy to play out part as a team member. Our most experienced planners lead the consultations with the Planning Authorities, from the initial concept feasibility discussions right through to agreeing pre-commencement compliance requirements.

Landscape & Visual Impact Assessment

LVIA is a core company specialism, with our approach to projects being informed by our specialist landscape architecture, planning and environmental staff. We use qualitative and quantitative methodologies in our landscape policy, landscape character assessment and visual impact assessment work on projects of every size, from large scale wind farms to single houses.

We prepare detailed photo-realistic visualisations, wireframe models and other visual tools to help stakeholders visualise a project’s scale, size and setting in the receiving landscape. Our project-specific, tailored approach to LVIA has proven to be effective on multiple large scale infrastructure projects.

Photomontage & 3D Visualisations

Our in-house capability in the area of photomontage and visualisation has been honed across a wide range of projects, from solar and wind farm projects through to large-scale linear infrastructure and recreational development. Our graphics technicians use the latest and most relevant software and visualisation tools, to output graphical representations of proposed projects in photo-realistic formats.

We prepare detailed photo-realistic visualisations, wireframe models and other visual tools to help stakeholders visualise a project’s scale, size and setting in the receiving landscape. Our project-specific, tailored approach to LVIA has proven to be effective on multiple large scale infrastructure projects.

Site Selection & Identification

Using a rigorous process, we identify & select optimum sites for projects. We use GIS mapping to identify key planning and environmental constraints, and opportunity areas outside the constraints that can accommodate a development project.

It can be difficult enough to secure project consents, without starting with the wrong site. We help select the optimum site for a development, which gives the project the best possible chance of success. The consideration of alternatives (including alternative sites) is a key requirement for EIA projects, and we help applicants demonstrate they have selected the best site in an area, county or region, for their chosen project.

Planning Appeals

We compile comprehensive, robust and effective planning appeals or responses to grounds of appeal when a planning application is subject to an An Bord Pleanála appeal. We prepare responses to grounds of appeal when a successful planning application must be defended on appeal.

Where an application to a planning authority has been unsuccessful, our appeals focus on the planning arguments most relevant to An Bord Pleanála. Every appeal is individually tailored to the particulars of the project and the most relevant planning policy to give our clients the best possible chance of securing their desired outcome.

Habitats Directive Assessments (AASR / NIS / HDA)

The requirements of the EU habitats directive are well known to us, and we prepare Appropriate Assessment Screening Reports (AASR) as Stage 1 assessment/reports or Natura Impact Statements (NIS) as Stage 2 assessment/reports.

Our expert knowledge of the requirements, pitfalls and nuances of habitats directive assessments has been honed by completing many hundred such assessments/reports over the last decade. Our knowledge of the planning system, makes us acutely aware of the planning implications of conducting a Stage 2 assessment for developments that otherwise would not require planning permission. Given our experience, we can advise clients very quickly on whether a Stage 1 “screening” will suffice of whether a full Stage 2 “assessment” is required.

Call us to discuss your next project – 091 735 611

Case Studies

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