22 May 2022

Kilkenny councillor calls for restrictions on solar panels on schools and community buildings to be lifted

A Kilkenny councillor is calling on the Minister of State Peter Burke to make good on a promise by the previous government to lift restrictions on the installation of solar panels on schools and community buildings.

Councillor Maria Dollard's motion calling on the government to remove the obstacle of planning permission was passed at April's meeting of Kilkenny County Council and elected members have yet to receive a response.

“I am appealing to government TD’s to ensure we see the exemption from planning permission fast tracked so schools and community groups can be enabled to easily put solar panels in place without the costs incurred under the current system. In addition to the positive impact in contributing to reducing carbon emissions, this small action will save schools millions of euro in professional fees and savings in energy bills, money that would usually by met my government or fundraised by school communities to meet shortfalls in grants. It’s in everyone’s interest to see this done, immediately”

“Electricity bills are a huge drain on the resources of schools and community buildings. At the moment, for a school or a community building to install even one solar panel they need to obtain planning permission. Residential property, commercial, industrial and businesses are exempted from needing to seek planning permission if they only cover 50% of their roof area, it is really unacceptable that schools and community buildings are treated less favourably when there is huge demand from schools not. It costs about €3,500 for a consultant to prepare the correct drawings and lodge an application.  That's a huge additional cost to a school or community building, and really throws the economics of an investment in solar out the window!”

The last government promised this issue would be addressed by the end of 2019 but it now seems like the end of this year before this will be resolved. The delay is said to be because of fears of ‘glint and glare’ affecting air traffic and a map must be prepared to indicate where this problem may arise.

“Meanwhile the vast majority of the country has to wait an inordinate length of time to be told what they already know, their development won’t affect air traffic at all. We need more joined up and focussed thinking on this issue, so that schools can avail of funding like Community Energy grants and grants for the creation of Community Masterplans to reduce energy usage and improve the carbon footprint within their community”

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