Concerns about the availability of finance and the cost of grid connections will be the biggest barriers to Irish solar deployment, a breakout session at the Solar Summit in London has said.

With the impact of the recession still keenly felt, banks in the country continue to be extremely cautious.

John Mullins, CEO of renewable power developer and investor Amarenco had some frank advice for those thinking about exploring the Irish market.

“Bring your own bank if you’re going to develop in Ireland,” he said, adding that grid costs would also be a challenge with connection costs twice those of France, where Amarenco is also active.

David Maguire, managing director of developer BNRG and chair of the Irish Solar Energy Association, echoed Mullins' concerns around grid costs and warned the market may not be as lucrative as some believe.

“There’s real hype at the moment around Ireland and a real gold rush, just not a lot of gold at the end of it,” he said.

Support and market shape

The panel expect feed-in tariffs for residential, commercial and utility scale segments with the presence of a number of international technology firms including Apple and Google, providing demand as offtakers for commercial deployment in particular.

With the state monopoly power company, and only network operator, the ESB forced to make grid offers within 90 days for sites under 4.95MW, a flurry of ground-mount sites at that scale is expected.

This could have the side-benefit of preventing intensification of sites and preventing solar from being afflicted by the same ‘toxic’ public opinion as wind.

Reporting by David Pratt