Lightsource Renewable Energy, the UK’s largest solar developer by capacity, has confirmed it is to launch a considerable push into Ireland’s nascent solar PV market this year.

A statement from the company said it was to invest “significant resource and expertise” into Ireland to deploy solar PV across ground-mounted farms as well as rooftops by engaging with businesses, schools and local communities.

The investment – touted to be around €500 million (£353.6 million) – comes as Lightsource chief executive Nick Boyle said he was “excited by the opportunity for solar power” in Ireland.

“Lightsource is committing significant financial investment and resource towards realising this opportunity. Any risks associated with the development of these solar projects, including installation costs, will be borne by Lightsource. This commitment will not only add to sustainable electricity generation in Ireland, it will also strengthen the local economy and supply chain.

“Our ground-mounted solar projects will provide much-needed land diversification for farming enterprises, and our rooftop systems will enable schools, businesses and community buildings to reduce overhead costs. It really is a win-win for local communities,” Boyle said.

Ireland’s Sustainable Energy Authority said in 2013 the country’s renewable energy assets generated just 7.8% of its final energy demand, with solar by some distance the country’s lowest contributor with just 0.1%.

Generation is some way off the 16% target the country has been set by 2020 under the European Union’s Renewable Energy Directive, which increases to 27% by 2030.

Ireland’s government is understood to be publishing a new energy policy imminently to highlight how the country can meet its targets and Finlay Colville, head of market intelligence at Solar Intelligence, said support mechanisms included in Ireland’s new energy policy will be vital for the market.

“Shifting to overseas markets will certainly be high up on the agenda at Lightsource, if plans from DECC go ahead to cull large-scale solar under the Renewable Obligation scheme from 1 April 2016. The company has been seeking to get some kind of traction in Ireland for solar farms for some time now.

“If Ireland was offering any kind of attractive option today, then there would be no shortage of takers of course, highlighting the fact that incentives are yet to emerge. However, if the forthcoming renewable energy plans from the country do offer solar an opening, then it is highly likely that Lightsource would be top of the queue in deployment,” Colville said.

Boyle said he thinks solar can deploy upwards of 1.5GW in Ireland by 2020 providing proper incentives are in place. “We have always been focused on building long-term relationships as we are the lifetime operator of all our projects. With an office in Dublin and locally employed staff, we will provide investment, expertise and support to businesses and local communities looking to reap the rewards of solar power,” he added.