The SEAI survey also found ‘high levels of support’ for wind energy in Ireland. Image: Pixabay (NC)

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has found “high levels of support” for renewable energy such as wind and solar as part of a new survey.

SEAI surveyed over 1,700 households in Ireland to understand the impacts of renewable generation projects in local areas and the general consensus to these being developed. This would help inform an “equitable and socially sustainable energy transition” the organisation said.

If there was any doubt as to whether the Irish population had an appetite for solar, this can be squashed with the national survey having found that 81% of respondents hold positive or very positive views towards solar PV farms.

Alongside this, “82% of respondents who live <1km from a Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) 1 solar project hold positive or very positive attitudes towards solar PV farms while 80% in the control group hold these views” the results outlined.

SEAI stated that it has commissioned studies to understand the ways in which community engagement in wind and solar can be improved through public participation in decision-making, direct investment, co-ownership in projects and by enhancing developers’ practices in establishing community benefits schemes.

“Citizens and communities are central to delivering the changes needed to reach our energy and climate targets. SEAI welcomes the findings from this study which demonstrate that nationwide support for wind and solar energy projects is generally very high,” said William Walsh, CEO of Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

“Continued engagement with communities is mission critical to delivering the energy transition, and SEAI are here to support every individual, community, and business in Ireland on their sustainable energy journey.”

Activity in the Irish solar sector is still picking up pace, with EDF Renewables Ireland breaking ground on three new solar farms with a total capacity of 17MW, NTR acquiring a 54MW portfolio of co-located solar and storage projects in Co. Wexford and Highfield Solar securing financing for the development of two sites totalling 282MWp in 2021, amongst other developments.

SEAI stated that, in the first quarter of 2023, renewable energy posted significant figures for generation. For example, wind provided 34% of Ireland’s electricity demand whereas on a single day in May, solar provided 10% of the country’s energy.

Although the Irish solar industry is picking up, the survey results also saw the population want more solar to help decarbonise the island. 78% of respondents to the survey stated that Ireland has too few solar PV farms with “almost no” respondents thinking Ireland has too many.

“This strong public support also bolsters the country’s efforts to achieve energy independence and decarbonise the economy, giving us a shield against volatile fossil fuel prices and helping to boost Europe’s energy independence in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” said Eamon Ryan, minister for the environment, climate and communications.

“It is essential that we ensure a supportive policy framework for wind and solar power that delivers balanced and consistent spatial planning at national, regional and local level to allow us to harness our indigenous renewable energy. This will build on the public support for renewables and harness the major investment in communities benefits, inclusive community engagement and amenities for recreational access that are changing the public’s relationship with renewable energy infrastructure.”