The Irish Solar Market | A Reflection & Projection

The Solar Landscape In Ireland | Reflection and Projection

Now is as good a time as ever to take stock of the Irish solar market. 2020 was a year of unimaginable uncertainties for so many people here in Ireland and who knew that we would be entering 2021 with some of the same. We now have a vaccine and that brings us back towards normality and again, certainty.

What makes now a good time to take stock? Well, here at Activ8 Solar Energies, we have a big year ahead, we're getting ready to celebrate 15 years in the solar business as well as opening a state-of-the-art headquarters. When we speak of certainty inside the four walls of Ireland's solar experts, we really own can be certain of one thing; change!

We started off with flat-plate solar panel collectors before the famous financial crisis of 2008 threw Ireland into recession and we learned a lot with that experience. We know that our original product offering has changed from solar panels to heat hot water only (flat-plate, or "Solar Thermal") to solar panels that create electricity (Solar PV). The recession came and went (with the infamous IMF) and the country slowly got back on its feet. More recently, we even saw the rise and fall of Donald Trump and you might think, what has that got to do with solar? Well, we wrote about this in 2016 and the possible disaster this might have for climate change efforts around the world, and we were unfortunately proven correct.

What has come before us is history and what will happen in the future is unknown, except for the knowledge that things will change and we here in Activ8 Solar Energies will adapt and evolve. We recently celebrated ISO certification in new areas, championing our commitment to process improvement internally, ultimately helping our customers. The reassurance longevity and experience brings cannot be underestimated. Customers of ours from 2007, 14 years ago, know that we're the same company that installed their solar panels in 2007 and although we've changed and grown over the years (for the better), we're still the same Activ8 Solar Energies.

Through our own data analysis, we have come to see the solar market here in Ireland become a lot more crowded. For instance, in the summer of 2018, Activ8 was competing with 6 similar businesses on Google Ads, according to the Auction Insights Report. December 2020 shows 20 competitors for the same market. This isn't a bad thing as this increased level of competition means that supply side solar costs are sustainable and more importantly, that standards are set and maintained by national bodies as a result. Heck, our CEO Ciaran Marron was on the NSAI committee to help formulate these standards given our longstanding position in the Irish solar market. It helps that our motto internally has always been "We don't follow standards, we set them" and to remain as Ireland's Solar Experts, we must always strive for the highest possible standards.

However, the sudden growth in 2018 may coincide with the introduction of the SEAI Solar PV grant at the very end of July 2018. As mentioned, it's great for the proliferation of solar and renewable energy throughout Ireland to have so many suppliers in the market going forward and here's hoping that as an industry, standards across the board are kept to a sustained, high level through the SEAI and other bodies.

We're delighted to have been offering solar energy and solar panels for 14 years and look forward to delivering our exceptional level of service for many more years to come. Keep an eye on our pages for more information on our improved Customer Resource Centre as well as our growing Activ8 Solar Academy.

Fingers crossed that 2021 delivers what we're all hoping for, a resumption to what we all call normal.


SEAI Energy Awards 2020 | Partnership Success

SEAI Awards With A Twist In 2020

The SEAI Awards were announced live on YouTube last week, a true reflection of the times, given the usual standing the award ceremony holds for those of us in the renewable energy industry. It has become a very important date in the calendar for many, as we all work hard towards improving standards and increasing the number of projects focused on energy efficiency and sustainability here in Ireland. With the latest lockdown restrictions, there were many of us waiting on the announcements from locations all over Ireland, be it from our home or office!

With the announcements came cause for celebration for us here in Activ8 Solar Energies as we were involved with four finalists, three of them ultimately winning.

The Winners

Firstly, Terra Spirits & Liqueurs, won the Small and Medium Business – Exemplary Energy Performance category. Having installed solar PV in 2018 for Terra, Shaun McKevitt was keen to build on this effort and completed that with a further expansion of their on-roof solar, amongst other measures, to 340kWp and are every bit deserving for their 2020 SEAI Energy Award.

Our partners, SSE Airtricity were also successful with SSE Airtricity Energy Services winning the Best Energy in Buildings category. A fantastic success by the team who we’re lucky to work with on a number of projects.

In a somewhat different category that makes this a wonderful project to be involved with, Dunleer Sustainable Energy Community won the Inspirational Energy Community Award. These guys are amazing in the passion they show as a community-based energy saving scheme in Co. Louth. Having worked with Elizabeth and Fergus McCann over the past 5 years, installing solar PV on a number of projects including the Birches centre, a project we like to highlight in particular as it helps some of the most vulnerable in our society and only goes to showcase the amazing work Dunleer SEC are getting across the line.

Finally, the efforts of Depuy Synthes – Johnson & Johnson saw them as finalists in the Energy Team/ Manager of the Year award, where they narrowly missed out. Having installed a 210kWp Solar PV system in the scenic location of Ringaskiddy, Co. Cork for Depuy Synthes in 2020, they are a true industry leader when it comes to the efforts they make in energy management and sustainability and it was a pleasure to work with a global leader on a solar project such as this one.

As we look forward to 2021 and the many wonderful projects already in the pipeline, we’re always striving to deliver the best in class project management and we want to work with the innovative companies and communities we have here in Ireland. If you have a project in mind, please reach out to either of our Project Manager, Martin Mulholland or our Commercial Manager, Gary Connolly.

martin.mulholland@activ8energies.com
gary.connolly@activ8energies.com

Contact Our Commercial Team



    Activ8 Presenting On FarmGen | Solar Ireland 2020 Conference

    The ISEA Conference 2020 took place on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th of this week. The event of course had to be held virtually but with great event management in place, it was a resounding success. With that said, we were delighted to presenting at the event for a fourth year running.

    With a wide range of solar projects ongoing in Activ8 Solar Energies, it’s great that we were able to switch topics. Having most recently presented on the topic of domestic solar, we were able to bring our learnings forward on the FarmGen project. An initiative we’ve collaborated on with Glanbia Ireland and SSE Airtricity to great effect. As Ireland’s solar experts, we were in a great position to help Glanbia Ireland bring a renewable offering to life for their agricultural customers. On top of this, the third arm of the partnership, SSE Airtricity offering preferential electricity rates, with the added bonus of said supply being 100% green energy*.

     

    With installations in 2019 and further installations this year, we have learned a number of things on the FarmGen initiative as well as thankfully having numerous expectations confirmed in reality. Our Commercial Manager, Gary Connolly, presented on these findings on the second day of the ISEA Solar Conference 2020 from the comfort of our head office.

    Firstly, he discussed the predictable, high usage periods of a dairy farm based around milking times. The morning milking is followed by a low midday demand on energy giving us an inverse usage curve versus the standard solar production curve. We have worked with farmers and the sizing of their systems accordingly. It is great that we can depend on the smart monitoring systems installed on-site to give us this feedback at a circuit level. By using this midday energy to heat the hot water cylinder on-site and have it ready for the evening milking, it maximises the use and efficiency of the system.

     

    Sizing the System

    We have encountered farmers throughout this initiative who are keen to oversize their system without proper understanding of the usage curve against standard solar production patterns.

     

    Rather than sizing the system for peak usage, there is a better optimal level towards which a system should be specified. Just as we do for all of our domestic and commercial solar PV clients, we always qualify and research their usage to better understand their need. This allows us to consistently size the system appropriately.

    As you can see in the graph above, the optimal sized system brings more efficiency and ultimately, better value for the farmer.

     

    The Future

    Gary then discussed some minor issues with the funding side and recommendations we would make to help improve the scheme, from a solar perspective in particular.

    If you wish to learn more about FarmGen, or have a project in mind that Solar PV may suit, then just get in touch via the contact form below.

      Name (required)

      Email (required)

      Your Phone No. (required)

      Your Location

      Type of Farm?
      DairyBeefPoultryOther

      Are you a Glanbia Milk Supplier?
      YesNo

      Message (Optional)


      I consent to giving Activ8 Solar Energies the above data as an expression of interest in the FarmGen initiative. Please note, that your data will be held in line with our Privacy Policy, which can be found at the link below.

      I consent to my data being shared with Glanbia Ireland in accordance with their privacy policy, which can be found by clicking the link below.

      Activ8 Solar Energies Privacy Policy
      Glanbia Ireland Privacy Policy

      *100% green energy based on Fuel Mix Disclosure and Co2 Emissions for 2019 published by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, September 2020. For more information visit sseairtricity.com/greenenergy


      Activ8 Play Installation Role in SVP Energy Upgrade Scheme In Limerick

      St Patricks Court Limerick housing scheme receives energy upgrade through retrofit project 

      As the solar partner of SSE Airtricity, we were only delighted to be involved in such a wonderful scheme that will truly make a difference. As installers on the project alongside SSE Airtricity Energy Services, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), this project focused on keeping homes warm through the winter of 2019 and beyond with the completion of this energy project in Limerick city. 

      In Garryowen, the residents of St Patricks Court will see energy consumption being reduced by almost 50% as part of this retrofit project.  

      There were 13 properties making up the project, all of which were built over 50 years ago and therefore had poor BER ratings, with solid concrete walls and single glazing windows. The majority of the tenants have come from the nearby SVP emergency homeless hostel accommodation and the properties had no energy upgrades since they were constructed. Following the final installation of the solar PV panels, the homes BER uplift came from a G right up to A3, savings thousands of euro in annual energy costs and making the homes much healthier and cosier to live in. 

      The project was co-founded by SEAI and SVP and delivered by SSE Airtricity Energy Services and Activ8 Solar Energies with upgrades on home heating, solar PV installation and external insulation. Part of the funding came through the SEAI and their Community Scheme with support from the government, which aims to improve energy efficiency in Irish communities. 

      Reflecting on 2019, this scheme has allowed us, alongside our partner, SSE Airtricity, to team up with local authorities, approved housing bodies and community groups to deliver energy improvements to domestic and fuel poor homes around Ireland. 

      Stuart Hobbs, Head of SSE Airtricity Energy Services, said, “We’re proud to partner with St. Vincent de Paul and the SEAI, and to help some of Limerick’s most vulnerable residents feel warmer and safer in their homes this winter. This project will reduce the resident’s energy costs while also helping cut carbon emissions from their homes. 

      At SSE Airtricity we know the value of helping Irish homes and businesses go green and how that can have a positive impact on Ireland’s 2030 climate goals,” Hobbs added. 

      John Randles, Head of Delivery in SEAI said, “This year, SEAI is supporting 57 projects under our communities’ scheme with over €25 million in government funding. We are delighted to see projects like the collaboration between SSE Airtricity, St. Vincent de Paul and St Patricks Court Limerick at completion.” 

       


      Activ8 Solar Energies Awarded ‘Best Solar Energy Solutions Provider 2020'

      Activ8 Solar Energies awarded ‘Best Solar Energy Solutions Provider' in the 3rd annual Irish Enterprise Awards

      We are absolutely delighted to announce that we have received this award on behalf of all our hard working staff

      It would be remiss of me to receive this award without a tone of caution in writing to our customers and followers as we celebrate this accolade. This award is down to the hard work and consistency of our staff over many, many years. This will be the 14th year of existence for what is Activ8 Solar Energies and while this award is directly attributable to our current staff, their efforts have been built upon the foundations of many previous staff members and I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our staff, both current and past.

       

      However, with the recent spread of COVID-19, these are uncertain times for businesses, but also for our families. We should all continue to follow expert advice from the HSE and informed government sources, as we are doing here in Activ8 Solar Energies.

       

      It is with this recent challenge and also this particular award, that we all look back on the growth of Activ8 Solar Energies over a fantastic 14 years and realise that as Irelands largest solar installer and with the backing of our partners SSE Airtricity that we are in a position to continue to help our customers as much as we possibly can and that we will continue to drive forward the renewable energy efforts in this wonderful country of ours.

       

      With that said, I want to thank all of our wonderful staff and wish health upon their families in the near future and the hope that our normal routines will seem to resume just as quickly as they have left us.

       

      Kind regards,

      Ciaran Marron
      CEO
      Activ8 Solar Energies


      Activ8 Solar Energies Launch FarmGen In Partnership With Glanbia Ireland & SSE Airtricity

      Minister Michael Creed & FarmGen Announcement.
      Photo Chris Bellew /Fennell Photography Copyright 2019

      Glanbia Ireland announce FarmGen Solar PV solution with SSE Airtricity and Activ8 Solar Energies

      • Initiative officially announced by Minister for Agriculture Michael Creed T.D.
      • Smart solar solution will help Glanbia Ireland farmers reduce costs and improve sustainability

       

      8th July 2019: Glanbia Ireland has today announced that they are delighted to bring FarmGen, a farm generated renewable energy initiative, to the farming community.

      Working in partnership with SSE Airtricity and Activ8 Solar Energies, Glanbia Ireland are launching this renewable solar energy solution to market. FarmGen has combined the collective knowledge, experience and expertise of all parties to bring a turn-key solar powered energy solution to Glanbia Ireland farmers.

      This technology will help farmers grow their business sustainably into the future, while improving energy efficiency on farm and reducing bills.

       

      Following rooftop installation, FarmGen’s 6Kw Solar PV system will help power energy intensive processes on farm, reducing the costs of milk cooling, vacuum pumps and water heating. Combined these three processes account for around 80% of total milk parlour energy consumption.

       

      Activ8 Solar Energies will supply and install state-of-the-art Solar PV panels along with a smart monitoring system on each farm. The system will monitor energy generation and consumption in real-time; helping farmers understand where and when energy is consumed, and therefore assisting them to adapt behaviours that will reduce energy costs and improve sustainability.

       

      As part of the solar offering, farms will also have export meters installed that enable them to potentially profit from future incentives to return electricity on to the grid. In advance of this measure, SSE Airtricity will provide an annual export rebate to FarmGen customers, as well as preferential energy rates on their 100% green energy.*

       

      Farmers can receive 100% financing for the FarmGen initiative through the existing Glanbia Ireland FundEquip scheme and can also leverage all available grant aids, such as TAMS II (Targeted Agricultural Modernisation Schemes) or SEAI. Activ8 Solar Energies will support all grant funding applications for customers.

       

      This solar power solution is open to all farming sectors and sizes, with customised commercial packages available and importantly there are also options available for those who wish to install Solar PV in their homes to harness the power of green energy. Farmers who wish to register their interest for this product can phone 1890 929 828 or visit www.farmgen.ie

      Michael Creed, Minister of Agriculture, Food & the Marine said: “This is a perfect fit with the Government’s own climate plan and ambition. It builds on the Department of Agriculture’s own TAMS grant, which is encouraging farmers to invest in renewable energies, particularly solar panels, on their farm. It’s great to see Glanbia Ireland take that scheme and work with it to enable the industry to collaborate for the benefit of Irish farmers.”

       

      Jim Bergin, CEO, Glanbia Ireland commented: “In Glanbia Ireland our philosophy is that ‘Goodness Grows Here’ and we are delighted to join with SSE Airtricity and Activ8 Solar Energies to launch our FarmGen programme. Through this economically attractive renewable energy solution, we are empowering our farmers to grow their enterprise and to do this in harmony with the environment, for future generations.”

       

      Klair Neenan, Managing Director, SSE Airtricity added: “At SSE Airtricity, we believe this is generation green, and we’re delighted to be supporting this initiative to deliver renewable energy solutions to Glanbia Ireland’s network of farmers. We’ll be offering FarmGen customers an exclusive export rebate, as well as preferential rates for our 100% green energy. It’s great to be working with a forward-thinking organisation like Glanbia Ireland, bringing together our expertise to reduce energy costs and improve sustainability at the same time.”

       

      Ciaran Marron, CEO, Activ8 Solar Energies said: “As solar experts, Activ8 Solar Energies aims to take the burden away from the farmer, and offer a full turn-key solution from initial interest and  grant application, right through to installation and commission of a farmer’s solar system.”

       

      Key highlights of the Glanbia Ireland FarmGen initiative include:

      • Solar PV: Solar PV panels will enable cost efficiency through reducing energy bills and powering farms through on-site renewable generation.
      • Smart Monitoring: Smart meters will enable farmers to better understand their energy generation and consumption and how they can adapt behaviour to drive further savings.
      • Export Meter: Export meters will future-proof farms for upcoming feed-in tariffs, enabling them to sell excess generation back to the electricity grid.
      • Preferential Rates and 100% Green Energy: FarmGen customers, who switch to SSE Airtricity will be supplied by 100% green energy at exclusive preferential rates, that will further reduce their carbon footprint.
      • Fully Funded Solution: The solutions available to Glanbia Ireland farmers through the FundEquip scheme, make it possible for famers to receive competitively priced finance for this product offering.

       

      *100% green energy based on Fuel Mix Disclosure and CO2 Emissions for 2017, published by the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), September 2018. For more information visit sseairtricity.com/greenenergy

      For more information on FarmGen, please view a video here.

      Our Partners On This Project

      About Glanbia Ireland

      Glanbia Ireland is an ambitious, integrated agri-food and nutrition business, with a diverse portfolio of quality ingredients, leading consumer and agri brands. Glanbia Ireland owns leading consumer and agri brands such as Avonmore, Kilmeaden Cheese, Millac, Premier Milk, Wexford, mymilkman.ie, Glanbiaconnect.com, countrylife.ie and GAIN Animal Nutrition.  It processes a 2.7 billion litre milk pool from 21 counties and exports high quality dairy and agri ingredients as well as branded products to over 70 countries. Glanbia Ireland is a joint venture 60% owned by Glanbia Co-op and 40% owned by Glanbia plc. With annual revenue of €1.8 billion, Glanbia Ireland has 11 processing plants, 53 agri branches and over 2,000 employees.

       

      About SSE Airtricity

      SSE Airtricity is the second largest energy supplier on the island of Ireland, proudly providing 100% green electricity, natural gas and energy-related services to around 750,000 home and business customers. SSE Airtricity is certified by Business in the Community Ireland to the Business Working Responsibly Mark, the ‘gold standard’ for Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Ireland. The company has around 1,000 employees on the island of Ireland and is proud to be a Living Wage employer. In 2018, SSE Airtricity acquired 40 per cent of Activ8 Solar Energies, one of Ireland’s leading suppliers of solar PV systems.

      Register your interest in FarmGen here


      ISEA Presentation 2017: Seeing Into The Future

       

      What a difference a year makes. In solar anyway.

      After one of our best summers here in Ireland, you would be forgiven for thinking I may be referring to the change in weather. But no, it wasn't changes in the sky, it was changes on the ground. The SEAI brought in the new solar PV grant for homeowners in July of this year and what a difference it has made. We had been lobbying for such measures over the past number of years and to be fair to the powers that be, they listened. Not only to us, but to research, to science, to economists and more. It makes sense.

      We have blogs, discussions, and interviews to show our past desires in this area. But maybe the most important reference we can show you is a presentation I gave at the ISEA conference in 2017. It was aptly titled: "The Challenges of Domestic Solar PV Without an Incentive" - if I was to present this now, it would be titled "The Success of Domestic Solar PV With an Incentive".

      Alas, here we are in November 2018 after our MD Ciaran Marron has presented upon the processes and procedures surrounding the grants and installation of these grant-aided solar PV systems. As one the leading solar installers in Ireland for well over a decade, Ciaran had the chance to pass on his knowledge around the processes surrounding solar PV and grant-aided work. Almost 10 years on from helping a customer complete his first SEAI grant application, Ciaran was happy to get this opportunity whilst also worrying about where the 10 years had gone...

      Either way now seems an appropriate time to look at the key points detailed in that exact presentation from 12 months ago and compare where we are as a nation and an industry right now.

      Early on, we compared the grant-aided structures around solar thermal technology, within which we were the leading installer going off the last recorded SEAI statistics.

      Comparing Solar Thermal & PV

      It's great now to be able to change much of the solar PV side with the introduction of the solar PV grant by SEAI, growing widespread uptake and slowly but surely, the visual growth of Irish rooftops showing solar PV and with the grant from the SEAI also comes quality control with meticulous work inspections bringing peace of mind to Irish homeowners.

      One of our other main points revolved around the idea that a gentle push is all the homeowner and the industry needed.

      Gentle Push

      Well... We got it.

      A gentle push has been provided, not only for the tried and test Solar PV but for the battery storage technology. As a company, we've found this has really taken off. As of November, around 25% of all installs now include battery storage added on with the customer benefitting from the additional €1,000 grant.

       

      A year ago, I argued that mass education on system attributes and capabilities can only come from experience within society.

      As a company, we have found in late 2018 that customers are far more familiar with what solar PV can do and its benefits to us here in Ireland.

      This has come from the proof being in the pudding. Customer recommendations being one. When you pair this with the publicity that initially came alongside the grant alongside continuous publicity from SEAI and news outlets. Public knowledge grows. With knowledge comes acceptance.

       

      Finally, as explained in our presentation last year, with incentives comes inspections and quality checks from governing bodies.

      We here at Activ8 widely approve more stringent checks on Solar PV works. This helps create standards that must be upheld by quality installers. Ensuring, that which is installed is installed for the long term. That it is safe and does what it says on the tin.

      It would be rude to take all the credit for our foresight on the above topics and presentation. A former colleague of mine (Maurice Murphy) wrote a dissertation on this exact topic in 2014, and lays out some wonderful points many of which are borrowed in my presentation. If this topic is of interest to you, I would suggest you read this dissertation in full in the link below. Covering topics from solar economics, the social, environmental and ethical drivers, right down to a funding piece which shows a cost neutral way for the economy to stimulate the growth in this sector.

      RENERWABLE ENERGY IN IRELAND - HAS THE GOVERNMENT MISSED A TRICK? - The Solar Photovoltaic Market in the Republic of Ireland: A Case Study

      Click the link below:

      Dissertation-Final-Draft-Sent


      Speaking About Solar PV at ISEA Conference 2018

      It was great to be invited to speak at the Solar Ireland 2018 event this week by the Irish Solar Energy Association.

      Having worked alongside the ISEA over the past number of years and having spoke at the event last year as a company, it was great to be invited along this year to discuss the solar PV landscape in Ireland in 2018, amongst other things.

      It gave me great pleasure in sharing our installation knowledge with the next generation of solar installers.

      It doesn't feel like 10 years since I helped our first customer claim an SEAI solar grant. Where does the time go?

      Ciaran.


      UN Panel on Climate Change Releases Scary Report & We Need To Do More

      Just two years ago, amid celebrations and excessive PR, the Paris climate accords were signed and we discussed the topic on this very website at the time of the event itself— bringing optimism across the globe, as to the future of climate change and how we, as a planet, would tackle the challenge and make efforts to secure our future on earth.

      The goal of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius was almost immediately shot down by experts as too much and that target itself was completely inadequate.

      Now, it’s 2018 and in those two short years, optimism was dropped. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released an alarming new report, alluding to how a 1.5° C raise as opposed to 2° C would make a massive difference. A difference that would affect the lives of millions of people. Continuing on our current path, the 1.5° C rise will happen by 2040! It will manifest itself in extreme weather events as well as other drastic changes. All coral reefs would die out, wildfires and heatwaves would sweep the planet and the fluctuations between drought and flooding would severely impact our ability to produce food.

      Even here in Ireland, we are seeing these changes happen and the damage they cause. Take our storms over the last 18 months, they are packing more of a punch and happening more often.

      Avoiding all of this can’t happen slowly. 2040 is a lot closer than we think! 22 years from now. Remember Riverdance in 1994, that was 24 years ago… You hear people say “where does the time go?” – well, it just passes. With time passing, things tend to passively happen. We cannot passively let our economies continue in the manner that they do. The solar PV grant was announced this year and the household micro-generation it supports is a small measure that can help Ireland towards neutralising and eliminating our carbon footprint, but so much more has to be done.

      We need to embrace change. We need to embrace technology. We need to embrace these challenges all over Ireland, together. It is one of the only truly global issues that no one country can eliminate for themselves and not for others. Countries can solve housing issues, poverty, food shortages, wars and more despite the fact that the same issues can exist right across their nearest border. Climate change, global temperatures, extreme weather events will all happen unless we all work towards a cleaner future. It’s unfortunate that other issues can bring the world closer together but our climate challenges cannot. I suppose everyone has to start somewhere, be it renewable energy, cutting down on waste by recycling, burning fewer fossil fuels, using less. That is what we should aim for in Ireland for now. The Irish government has started with renewable energy grants such as this year’s Solar PV and pre-existing supports through the SEAI but this progress should only be backed up with more progression and give citizens the tools and resources to tackle climate change the length and breadth of Ireland, from Mizen Head to Malin Head, Dublin Port to Westport.


      Stumbling Towards Solar PV Incentives In Ireland

      As a key stakeholder in the Irish Solar Industry, this week is a very interesting one indeed.

      Today I travel to a number of meetings with many like-minded people within my industry, to see if we can form a strong, stable and exciting incentive to help us move past the label of Europe’s solar laggards.

      Tomorrow I travel to Munich, to Intersolar 2018, where I can discuss with our peers in Europe, suppliers and engineers alike on the deemed successes of solar throughout the continent in the past and the products and strategies of the future.

      To see where our industry sits at this moment in time we should see the successes achieved both by us and by our nearest neighbours – Northern Ireland. SEAI have done a great job spreading the word of sustainability throughout Ireland, with grants for almost every useful upgrading measure available. To this end, energy conservation and renewable production has almost become glamorous! You need look no further than Diarmuid Gavin on a Sunday afternoon on RTE to realise that triple glazing, insulation and heatpumps are the fashionable things to go for. When it comes to Solar Thermal, SEAI have truly done their part also. We have upgraded thousands of homes through the grant scheme, and thousands of others simply through the knock on effect of testimonials, advocating the effectiveness of established solar homes. Great products, services and savings are infectious, but sometimes need a push to get over the hump of inertia. In this context, Northern Ireland have taken an approach to incentivise Solar PV. From simply driving the road from Dundalk to Castleblayney, you can see the effects from one incentivised region to another.

      For those not familiar with the N53, it turns into the A37 (NI) for 5.4 kilometres. As you drive this small stretch of road, you can see what a difference the PV incentive has made. You will see both social and private housing with systems installed, as well as numerous businesses from petrol stations to bars and shops. All reducing the electricity purchased from the grid, saving money and doing their bit for the environment. Then as you move further down the road onto the N53 again you can see domestic customers availing of solar thermal again in the Republic.

      A small PV incentive, similar to that which homeowners can obtain for solar thermal in Ireland would put us in a position to catch up with our European counterparts in the renewable stakes. We already have the governing body in place, along with mechanisms to roll this out extremely efficiently. We have checks in place for trade specific qualifications and insurances to ensure the customer is using a properly vetted company. We already have the vehicles in place to do quality insurance inspections to ensure only high quality installers remain on this grant list. We even have an efficient way of trading carbon credits which could also subsidise installation costs in place. Leaving us with 2 roadblocks;

      1. The lack of an incentive in place for solar PV
      2. The lack of planning foresight for Solar PV, as we are still working from exemptions with solar thermal in mind

      Change is difficult. Enacting mass change is harder again. Indecision, plodding progress and fear of change is what has us as Europe’s laggards. On a technology that has proven itself throughout European countries for over a decade now. This stumbling progress to date, has left us second from bottom on a list produced by Europe’s largest NGO coalition Climate Action Network (CAN) on Monday just past (18th June 2018) of countries and their progress toward their 2020 goals. However, the aforementioned structures and processes that we already have in place, allows me to look at the current solar landscape and our ability to move forward with solar PV with positivity.

      Ciaran Marron
      CEO