Though there’s a general price bracket, this question has no direct answer. The reason for that is this question depends on some factors, including the size of the solar farm, the intensity of the sunlight (volume of solar energy), the distance of the solar farm to the power grid, and the quality of the soil.
Solar power makes up just 1% of the total electricity generated in Ireland as of 2022. Another source states that Ireland secured funding for about 134 solar farms, which will be spread across 21 counties in the country.
You may have wondered what the solar farm income is per acre, but before we get to that, let’s look at the key factors that influence that.
Factors Determining How Much The Solar Farm Income Is
The solar farm has to be situated on a piece of land, and the larger the land, the higher the developmental costs and the higher the electricity generated from that solar farm. The rule of thumb requires 1KW of solar power for each solar panel per hundred square feet. Solar farms typically require a large piece of land since it’s a mega-project, and the more land you have, the more renewable energy you can generate and sell.
Solar farming is a lucrative business for solar farm developers. The land has to be at least 4.5 acres to generate a megawatt of green energy. The average size of a solar farm in Ireland is tens of acres, translating to several megawatts of renewable energy.
The Sunlight Hours
The solar farm’s profit margin is directly tied to the amount of electricity it can generate, which is influenced by the amount of solar energy the solar panels can harvest from the sun. Knowing how solar PV systems work, the amount of solar energy solar projects can get depends on the amount of peak sunlight hours in the area the solar power plant is at. Most of Ireland receives average sunshine ranging from 5-6.5 hours daily, with the most intense periods coming in between May and June. In a year, that goes up to 1600 sunlight hours.
Quality Of The Land Occupied
This may seem like an odd addition to the list, but the quality of the land affects the income of the solar project because unsuitable lands, such as swampy areas, are more tasking to develop. Some lands are almost impossible to develop for setting up solar projects. The solar farm land requirements include flat agricultural land that’s been cleared and has minimal wetlands.
The Proximity Of The Solar Farms To The Grid Connection
The closer the solar power plant is to the grid it will export the electricity generated to, the better. Solar farm developers are very conscious of the availability of infrastructure and must ensure that the land leased is not more than a couple of miles from a power substation or a minimum of 1000 feet from a phase-three power.
The Size Of Capital
How much you have to invest matters because the more liquidity you have, the more apparatus you have, and the more panels you can install. Any solar expert will tell you, a higher capital cost enables you to install more solar panels, which means more power and higher profit margins. In this industry – size matters.
Size Of Debt Incurred
If you sourced capital to establish the solar farming project from investors, that means you’ll also have creditors to pay your debts, and this will reduce your net profits. On the other hand, if you financed the solar farm yourself, that means more profits from the project as you have no debts to pay.
How Much Solar Farms Make Per Acre In Ireland?
Considering all the factors mentioned above, the power company will pay land owners an annual income of €19,250 – €38,500 per acre from a solar farm. The exact figure dances within this range, but it depends on the project. To get the total projected revenue of your solar project, multiply your annual revenue by how many acres your land is.
Starting Your Solar Farm: A Brief Guide
Starting a solar farm is lucrative and rewarding, but you should know what it involves.
The Suitability Of The Land
Whether it’s leased land or a property you own, you must ensure that your site meets the topographic and geographic requirements for a solar farm.
Firstly, there’s the size to consider. For every megawatt of electricity, you need at least 2.5 acres of land space and even more for installing the necessary equipment that will be paired with the solar panels to make complete solar PV systems.
Secondly, your land has to be free of any obstruction to sunlight – trees, tall buildings, or any form of shade. The more obstructions are present, the less solar energy the solar farm will generate per acre.
Thirdly, as we mentioned earlier, the nearer the land is to the grid or the less remote the land is, the better. Very remote lands that are far from power stations will cost more money to develop and vice versa.
Lastly, the more suitable the topography of the land is, the easier it becomes to install solar panels and vice versa.
Buy The Required Components
If you’re not familiar with what you need to build a solar farm, you can consult a solar farm developer. Assuming you want to build a 1 MW solar farm, you’ll have to buy the following;
- Solar PV modules
- MPPT Tech solar inverters
- Monitoring and protection gadgets
- Ground mounts
- Solar panels
- Solar inverters
- Junction boxes
- Safety gear
You won’t need to purchase battery storage because the solar farm will be connected to the grid. In addition to the above expenses, there are erection costs, labor costs, and maintenance costs for the site and the power plant.
Adhere To The Local Land Regulations
We strongly recommend acquainting yourself with the land use regulations in your county because some places don’t allow the cultivation of a solar farm. So, be sure it’s allowed in your location before proceeding with the project to avoid legal troubles. You should also know that you’ll need planning permission.
Be Familiar With The Pros And Cons
Solar energy is environmentally friendly, unlike fossil fuels which pollute the environment via spills and greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also very cost-effective in the long run. By encouraging the growth of solar farms, Ireland is looking at the bigger picture. However, just like wind energy, it has its downsides, the most notable one being its dependency on the weather. In other words, the weather condition determines how much power it can generate. Another significant downside is that it costs a lot to install and set up, and if you don’t own land, you have to lease a landowner’s property. This brings us to the next question.
How Much Does It Cost To Install A Solar Farm In Ireland?
Considering the purchases you have to make and other expenses, the cost of developing a solar farm will range from €362,500 – €453,000 barring maintenance costs. It sounds like a lot, but this is an investment that will pay for itself within some years. The maintenance costs range from €13.5 – €22.6 per kWh. If we put it at an average of €18 per kWh, the cost of maintaining a 1MW solar farm will be €18,000.
The Viability Of Small-Scale Solar Farms
Initially, small-scale solar farms were not viable, and the size of investment needed to develop a solar farm was beyond the capacity of many farmers. However, through the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme, the Irish government is supporting the development of small-scale solar farms by offering support (microgeneration support scheme) to any land owner with a minimum land size of 2.5 acres (500KW).
This support will last for 15 years. The government aims to promote the generation of electricity for on-farm usage. The excess electricity will be exported to the grid, and the farmer will be paid €0.135 per kWh or the current market price. However, the criteria for the grants given by the government is that the solar farms are developed to tackle energy efficiency and not solely to make a profit.
How Land Owners Make Money From Solar Farms?
The primary means of income is selling or exporting excess electricity to the grid. An alternative is via rental income, i.e. solar leases to a solar company. Solar farms are a worthy investment compared to non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas and petroleum.