THE global energy company behind plans for a proposed solar farm in Clarecastle have insisted that pilots flying in and out of Shannon Airport will not be affected by reflections of the sun from its solar panels.
Engie Developments Ireland Ltd has applied to Clare County Council seeking a 10-year planning permission for the development of a solar farm on a site located in the townlands of Lissan West and Ballaghafaddy West, Clarecastle.
The proposed solar farm will comprise the construction and operation of solar PV arrays mounted on metal frames on a site over 33ha, inclusive of a single electrical control building, substation, up to eight inverter units, one temporary construction area with ancillary facilities, boundary fencing with CCTV, an access track and all associated works.
According to the developers, the solar farm, if given the go-ahead, will have a generation capacity of up to 19mw, enough electricity to power approximately 3,356 households.
The planning application has been objected to by a number of locals, who have raised various concerns including flooding potential, possible property devaluation and the impact on the landscape and ecology.
The Shannon Airport Authority has highlighted “possible aviation safety implications arising from the proposed installation, particularly the potential effects of glint and glare for pilots on approach and take off from the main runway at Shannon”.
The Irish Aviation Authority has also advised that an assessment of any potential glare and glint issues be carried out as part of the application.
However, a report compiled on behalf of the developers states the results of computer-based analysis have indicated “there would be no impacts on either the ATCT (Air Traffic Control Tower) or the runway approaches” of Shannon Airport.
It continues, “We note that two solar farms of a similar scale to the one proposed, Firgrove, Sixmilebridge, County Clare and Ballymorris, County Clare, have been granted planning permission by Clare County Council in close proximity to Shannon Airport. These planning applications included glint and glare assessments similar in content and scope to the one which was enclosed with the subject planning permission.
“There has also been recent media coverage of a new solar farm at Dublin Airport, which further demonstrates that solar arrays do not have any detrimental effect on aviation or aviation safety.”
An updated flood risk assessment states that a precedent has been set by an An Bord Pleanála decision that solar panels are appropriate in Flood Risk Zone A.
A survey of wintering water birds lodged by the developers conclude that the site does not support important assemblages of wintering wildfowl, waders or species for which the Lower River Shannon and River Fergus SPA are designated.
The developers state, “We would request that Clare County Council take account of the fact that the proposed development represents a renewable energy development which will provide a sustainable source of energy. It is these types of developments that will contribute to Ireland meeting its European and international obligations in respect of fossil fuel and carbon emissions. The locations and site characteristics present a number of distinct advantages. The site has been chosen due to its southern aspect, natural contours and the availability of a convenient national grid connection.
“The application site is located in an area where it will not result in an adverse visual impact nor will it impact the amenity of neighbouring properties. The views from the houses to the east/south east overlook the existing industrial estate and the proposed development will have no adverse impact on this vista. The proposed development will have no negative impact on local property prices which are not a material planning consideration.”