Solar panels (file photo)
A public information meeting about a proposal to develop a large solar farm on 90 hectares of land in a rural community near Carrick-on-Suir takes place next Wednesday, April 6.
The information meeting takes place the old school house in Clonea village at 7.30pm that day. It will be attended by representatives of BNRG Renewables, the company preparing to submit a planning application seeking permission to develop the solar farm at Bishopstown, Bridgetown, Ballyhest and Ballyneal, Clonea-Power in late April or early May.
A separate meeting of local residents in Mothel, Clonea and surrounding areas will take place at the old school in Clonea this Friday, April 1 at 7.30pm to set an agreed agenda and questions for the April 6 information meeting.
These meetings have been called after information leaflets were distributed to homes in the Clonea area in recent weeks outlining BNRG Renewables’ solar farm proposal.
According to the leaflet, the boundary area of the proposed solar farm will be 154 hectares in size while the solar farm will cover 90 hectares, which translates to about 222 acres.
BNRG secured planning permission in 2019 to develop another solar farm in the nearby Mothel area but no construction has yet begun on this site.
Rathgormack Fine Gael Cllr Seanie Power said the public information meeting is being organised on April 6 so local residents can raise their concerns about the company’s latest proposed solar farm.
He has been contacted by constituents with a lot of concerns about the project and this was why he was involved in organising the public information meeting, which BNRG were invited to attend.
Cllr Power said residents’ biggest concern was the visual impact the solar farm will have on their homes, the wider community and views of the Comeragh Mountains. Residents are concerned about the visual impact of fencing that would surround the perimeter of the solar farm. They are also concerned about security cameras that will be erected on the fencing.
Cllr Power said residents were also concerned there will be a battery storage facility at the site to store electricity. And they fear the development will result in the erection of electricity pylons in the area to transport the electricity the solar farm generates.
Simon Hickey of BNRG said representatives of the company will attend the public meeting and will listen to local people’s concerns about the project.
“We plan to take notes of public concerns and consider them in our planning application, which we are currently working on.”
Mr Hickey said the company has been in communication with a number of local people about the potential visual impact of the proposed solar farm and will be taking their concerns into consideration prior to submitting the planning application.
“We are currently in the process of undertaking a Planning and Environmental Considerations Report with a specialist consultant. A Landscape and Visual Impact assessment is a big part of the report. Once that is complete, we will take steps to mitigate potential landscape and visual impacts.
“There are various other environmental and ecological assessments as part of the report. All will be published and available to the public.”
In relation to the fencing, he said it will be approximately 2m high and will be mesh wire that can been seen through.
“CCTV cameras will be installed purely for security of the site and will be inward facing. They will be purely monitoring the solar farm site and will not be monitoring anything outside its perimeter.
“BNRG will provide all plans and drawings of fencing and CCTV to the public through Waterford County and City Council.
“If there are specific CCTV cameras that residents are particularly concerned about, we may be able to relocate or remove them,” he added.
Mr Hickey went on to say there was no battery storage facility planned for this stage of the development and all cabling to the main electricity grid will be underground for this phase.
“There will be no new electricity pylons carrying high voltage lines,” he said.
In relation to the size of the solar farm proposal, he said there were similar sized solar farm projects currently being developed across the country by renewable energy developers.
“By the time, the Mothel Solar Farm is operational, we do not expect it will be one of the biggest solar farms in the country.
“There are currently three projects in construction owned by other developers that are larger than the proposed Mothel site and there will be many more over the coming years.”
Mr Hickey said if planning permission is granted, it is planned that the solar farm will take part in the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS), which will involve the company making a community contribution of €2/MWh annually.
“This will result in a community contribution in excess of €100,000 annually.”
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