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Laurence Dunne Archaeology,
3, Lios na Lohart, Ballyvelly,
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Mar 22, 2017

Solar Farm assessments and monitoring

Solar Farm assessments and monitoring

Photo; Grazing sheep on solar farm at Newquay, Cornwall

Solar farms comprise field-scale arrays of low ground-fixed photovoltaic (PV) panels that have made increasing inroads into renewable energy in several EU countries. Solar farms can vary in size from small 4MW to large 50MW. Apparently, 1MW is enough power to supply between 150-200 homes. Planning applications for solar farms have increased dramatically in Ireland in the recent past. The ESB state that there are c.3000MW of applications in the pipeline to date. This being the case, it would appear that, solar power is about to make a substantial impact in renewable energy in Ireland. To date just one 5MW solar farm has been built in the island of Ireland in Co. Antrim of which 27% is used for nearby Belfast International Airport to which it is directly connected. In the UK, solar farms began to appear from 2011. Other EU countries been constructing solar farms since 2005 with Germany now producing the largest amount of renewable energy from solar farms in the world.

Small 1.3MW solar farm on a poultry farm in Leicestershire

In 2016 Laurence Dunne Archaeology completed several archaeological impact assessments with regard to planning applications for the construction of solar farms. To date we have completed assessments in counties Kerry, Clare and Cork. Licensed test excavations were also undertaken at some of the sites in response to further information requests from planning authorities.

 Oblique aerial image of archaeological testing for proposed solar farm near Causeway in North Kerry. 

In November 2016, the National Monuments Service of the Dept. Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs issued a Solar Farm Developments – Internal Guidance Document. The document was later made available to all archaeologists. As currently understood, this is the only guidance document regarding solar farms available to any professional body involved with solar farm planning applications in Ireland.

Of particular interest is that the land between and beneath the solar arrays can still be used for the grazing of small livestock of which sheep are ideally suited.

Sheep grazing beneath a 5MW solar farm near Glastonbury