Ireland’s solar market could be as large as 1GW by 2020 but looks set to be significantly overcrowded, with applications totalling two or three-times that figure expected.

In an interview discussing the Irish market's potential amongst other topics, Airtricity corporate finance manager Fintan Whelan said that as much as 1GW of solar could be built in Ireland however the final figure would depend on the tariffs put in place.

The Irish government confirmed last month that a Renewables Obligation and feed-in tariff would be put into place later this year with precise rates and degressions yet to be decided.

But while 1GW is expected, Whelan warned that the market could be overcrowded. He expects the total capacity of projects submitted for planning to reach between 2-3GW, with many falling by the wayside.

And the most lucrative sites earmarked for development are already under consideration. “There is a strip along the south coast of Ireland which is as sunny as the south of England – you can be assured that those sites are getting swallowed up – if not already gone, with regards to ground mounted solar,” Whelan said.

“Policy makers and energy system planners generally are all underestimating the contribution that solar can make, and how quickly,” he added.

Whelan’s forecasts were echoed by Amarenco founder John Mullins who said that whilst 1GW is expected to be completed by 2020, more than 1.2GW worth of applications have already been submitted.

The opportunities could therefore arise after 2020, with ‘Big Four’ consultancy KPMG stating that Ireland could support as much as 4GW of solar by 2030 at a cost of just €670 million in government subsidy.

Ireland has attracted considerable interest from UK solar developers investigating other opportunities as the domestic market contracts. Lightsource announced a major investment in the country last year, while a number of other developers are also expected to formally announce moves in the coming months.

Fintan Whelan is one of a number of speakers at next month’s Solar Finance and Investment event at London’s Grange City Hotel.