Speculative prospecting by solar energy development companies across Ireland is being fuelled by Government inaction, IFA Renewables Project Team Chairman James Murphy has said.
“It is very worrying that more than 20,000 acres of land are now under some form of a solar energy contract but we still do not have clarity from Government on basic questions such as the financial support that will be available through the REFIT tariff or where landowners who have signed contracts stand with regard to access to the tariff. It is wrong of Government to allow this flux to continue.”
James Murphy said clarity is urgently required on questions such as how many megawatts of solar energy will receive financial support; what tariff premium will be provided where communities are involved in the renewable projects; will all those who have signed contracts get access to the new solar tariff; and, if not what is going to happen to the thousands of farmers who have signed contracts with legitimate expectation.
Advice for farmers
James Murphy advised that at this stage, any farmer who has been approached by a solar development company, and has not yet signed an exclusivity agreement or other paperwork, needs to think carefully as these farmers are at the back of a long queue.
“It is important that farmers understand that exclusivity agreements are unnecessary and only buy time for the development company. Instead, a full suite of option and lease contracts should be sought, and the term of the option should be no longer than 3-5 years – if a project has not progressed by then it may be unlikely to happen. The contract must also include a clause stating that if the project is not developed on the lands, the associated grid reverts back to the landowner.
“Above everything else it is vital that farmers get good independent legal advice before signing anything. Remember, you are making decisions not just for you but also for the next generation,” James Murphy concluded.