The total capacity of contracted solar projects in Ireland has reached over 152MW according to the latest official update from network operator ESB.

In its first dataset since August, ESB Networks has revealed that 35 solar projects have all now been approved from the pipeline of Irish projects. 

This is a significant increase from the 90MW of projects that had previously been known to be contracted.

All of the sites are below 5MW with the exception of the Threecastles development in Wicklow, which will be 15MW upon completion.

Only five of these projects contracted under the non-group processing approach of the Irish market have an estimated connection date, all of which will be in 2018 when it is thought that a government support scheme will be in place.

The update is a welcome sign that the system operator is making headway through the substantial pipeline of non-GPA solar projects, now thought to stand at 4.8GW.

Lauren Cook, market analyst for Solar Media and author of the Republic of Ireland Solar PV Opportunity Tracker report, commented: “This shows that progress is being made through the pipeline of projects that have been submitted to ESB.

“We are starting to see some developers having success in both the grid and planning phases and Solar Media's project database is now showing 11 projects that are fully permitted.

“These projects are well placed to be part of the first build out phase. It is likely that any future support scheme for ground-mounted solar will include a grid contract and planning permission as a prerequisite.”

Despite the growing number of contracted projects, the Irish solar market remains in a state of over supply, with considerably more capacity in the pipeline than required.

While the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) has set out plans to free up capacity within the pipeline, Irish climate change minister Denis Naughten has sought to manage expectations within the market.

Speaking last month, he explained that the “the significant volume” of proposed projects would not be supported “in the short-term”, particularly as the total capacity exceeds Ireland’s winter level of demand.

More information about the Republic of Ireland Solar PV Opportunity Tracker report from Solar Media can be found here or by contacting [email protected]