Solar Energy

Solar’s got a bright future in Ireland. There’s plenty of information out there on this technology, so we’ve consolidated it down into an easy to read guide anyone can understand.

Solar Explained

Irish homes have been harnessing solar energy for years now. Although the word “solar” has become somewhat of a catchall term, it’s important to recognise that there are 2 distinct types of solar energy: solar thermal and solar electric.

Solar thermal panels, or collectors as they are more commonly known, generate heat by capturing energy from the sun and using it to heat water. Solar electric, also know as photovoltaic (PV) panels, differ in that they generate DC electricity when exposed to light. Solar thermal is more widely used in Ireland, however, PV is becoming increasingly popular as the technology improves and becomes more accessible and affordable.

Solar Electric

With energy prices expected to rise by an average of 5% over the next year it’s no surprise that more and more homes and businesses are turning to this type of technology for their electricity needs. Although there are no grants currently available to offset the costs of solar electricity systems, also know as photovoltaic (PV), it is expected the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland will be launching grants during the Summer of 2018 to make these systems more affordable.

The average Irish home (3 bedroom house) uses approximately 5,300 kilowatt hours of electricity per year which can cost upwards of €1,200. This number can vary greatly according to how many rooms are in the house, how energy efficient your home is and the number of people living in the house. An average solar PV system in an optimal location can generate approximately 2,600kWh which can cover the cost of half of your annual electricity bill. Solar PV panels rely on light and not heat which makes Ireland a great location for this type of technology given that they can still produce electricity even through cloud cover.

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Solar Thermal

Heating water can be quite energy intensive for a household, especially one with numerous people living there  . Solar thermal can provide a household with ~70% of their water heating needs. This form of solar energy is very common in Ireland and it can come in two forms.

Flat Plate Collectors are heavy and durable thermal systems that can sit on your rooftop. They tend to be the more affordable solar thermal option but one of the downsides is that they do not heat water to the same high temperature as the Evacuated Tube Collectors option.

Evacuated Tube Collectors can also sit on your rooftop but are less imposing and are linked with producing 20% more hot water per meter-squared of surface area. However, it’s important to note that this bigger energy yield typically comes with a higher price tag.

Planning Permission

So what’s required in terms of planning permission when you’re looking to set-up solar panels on your home? Well in Ireland, fortunately for homeowners, solar panels don’t require planning permission as long as they comply with certain conditions under the Planning and Development Regulations Act 2007. These conditions include:

The total size of the panel(s), on the house does exceed 12 square metres or 50% of the total roof area, whichever is the lesser.

  1. The total size of the panel(s), on the house does exceed 12 square metres or 50% of the total roof area, whichever is the lesser.
  2. In the instance of a pitched roof, the panel must be within 15 centimeters of the plane of the roof or the wall of the house.
  3. In the instance of a flat roof, the panel must be within 50 centimeters from the plane of a roof.
  4.  The solar panel shall be a minimum of 50cm from any edge of the wall or roof on which it
    is mounted.
  5. In the case of a free-standing solar system, it can’t exceed 2 metres, at its highest point, above ground level.
  6. A free-standing solar system can’t be placed on or forward of the front wall of a
    house.
  7. The erection of any free standing solar panel structure can’t reduce the area of private open space, reserved exclusively for the use of the occupants of the house, to the rear or to the side of the house to less than 25 square metres.