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Europe’s Leading Solar Energy Generator Invites Residents to Discuss Plans for New County Tipperary Solar Farm:

Europe's leading solar energy company, Lightsource Renewable Energy, is unveiling plans for a solar farm in County Tipperary, which will be capable of powering more than 5,000 homes. The company is inviting local residents to a community information evening on Wednesday 13th April, at Castle Suite, Cahir House Hotel, from 5.30pm until 8pm.

Plans for the 20.56MW site on land at Monaraha, east of Cahir Town, are still at an early stage and Lightsource is keen to speak to local residents to help shape the final proposals before they are submitted to the council for consideration.

If approved, the solar farm would provide enough renewable energy to power 5,300 homes, while saving 9,000 tonnes of carbon emissions each year - equivalent to taking more than 2,000 large family cars off the road.

Located adjacent to a concrete works and former quarry, the proposed site is well-screened from the wider landscape by the site's boundary hedgerows. The solar panels at Monaraha would reach a maximum height of 2.5 metres and would not be visible from the town of Cahir. There are also no views into the site from the R640 (Clonmel Road) and new planting of hedgerow along the southern boundary will further screen the site from the country road to the south of the site.

Installation of the solar farm will take about three to four months with deliveries made to site avoiding residential and built up areas. The solar farm would be connected to the national grid via a sub-station adjacent to the proposed site. Once the solar farm is in place it requires very little maintenance and only occasional visits in regular vehicles.

Conor McGuigan, Planning and Development Director at Lightsource, said: “Lightsource has a robust site selection process and we invest considerable resources in progressing only the most appropriate sites for potential solar farms. The proposed fields at Monaraha are very well-screened from the surrounding area and the panels themselves emit no noise, smells or emissions, so there is no risk of disturbance from the operation of the site.”

The site, off Clonmel Road, is currently used for cattle grazing and the solar farm will be designed to allow continued agricultural used as well as generating clean electricity. The rows of solar panels will be widely spaced and raised so that grass can establish throughout the site, including the area underneath the panels, making it an ideal for grazing pasture for a flock of sheep.

Solar farms can also be a haven for local wildlife and a bespoke biodiversity management plan will be developed for the Monaraha site on the results of ecology surveys, which will ensure that the most appropriate enhancements are incorporated into the site. The seeding of wildflowers across the site could help to attract bees, butterflies, birds and other invertebrates, while any new planting would strengthen wildlife habitats and foraging grounds.

Conor added: “This is still very early days for the project and the community information evening will give residents a chance to ensure that these plans are best suited to the local landscape. Solar farms not only produce clean electricity, they also present an opportunity to support local businesses, skills and wildlife habitats by responsibly managing the land.

“Although the majority of local people will not see the solar farm once it has been installed, we hope that they will be able to clearly recognise the positive community benefits that they bring - with biodiversity enhancements, continuing agricultural use and a locally-produced source of clean, safe energy.”

Lightsource will be looking to utilise local contractors and service providers wherever possible, including:-

- Security personnel

- Civil roadways experts

- Storage and logistics businesses

- Fencing experts

- Accommodation & food and beverage providers

- Landscapers specialising in local/native species

Residents wishing to view the initial proposal in more detail or make suggestions to the Lightsource Planning team can visit the Planning Portal at: click ‘In-House Planning' and type the site name “Monaraha” into the search box. An online feedback form is also available on the page.

By 2030, 27% of Ireland's energy will need to come from renewable sources, according to the Government. In its report published in February, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland said Ireland's 2013 renewable energy production contributed 7.8% of the country's final energy demand, putting Ireland almost halfway towards the target set of 16% under the European Union's Renewable Energy Directive by 2020.

Lightsource believes that solar can deploy 1.5 Gigawatts of generating capacity by 2020 (which is enough sustainable and clean electricity to power over 495,000 local households), meeting over 5% of Ireland's electricity demand.