A group of farmers in west Kerry is planning to use the power of numbers to secure solar PV installations on their farms at a lower cost.
Established in 2019, the West Kerry Dairy Farmers Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) includes 106 farmers on the Dingle Peninsula who are working on ways to become more energy efficient.
The first phase of the sustainability project saw the group commission consultants, DCSix Technologies to compile an energy masterplan.
That study found that in 2019 the dairy farmers in the group used over 10,000MWh of energy, which cost €1.6 million and generated 2,900t of carbon dioxide (CO2).
Following the completion of the energy masterplan, individual farm surveys were carried out to help farmers to decide on what climate action measures would be best suited to their enterprise.
Chair of the West Kerry Dairy Farms’r SEC, Dinny Galvin, said that 65 members of the group expressed an interest in installing solar PV panels on their farms.
The SEC steering committee then decided to put the project out to tender.
“We learned massively from this. We put it out to 11 companies, seven came back and we reduced that to three companies.
“The steering committee interviewed the three companies, and we are delighted to say that Solar Beo, a local company came out on top in the end,” Galvin told Agriland.
Representatives from Solar Beo and DCSix Technologies took part in an information meeting with the farmers in Dingle this week.
“They explained that their next job now is to get permission to come on the farms and do a survey,” Galvin said.
If the farmers are happy to proceed they can decide to apply for grant funding for the solar PV system through Targeted Agriculture Modernization Schemes (TAMS) or the Sustainable Energy Authority Of Ireland (SEAI) non-domestic grant.
Galvin, who runs a dairy and sheep farm in Lispole, said the farmers will “do a lot” better approaching a company in a group, rather than individually.
“We have a good deal got here, finance did come into the tender process. I suppose the local company, being based here locally, was able to give a better rate,” he said.
The running of the SEC project is facilitated through the Dingle Hub where Galvin works as an energy and agriculture liaison officer.
“I’m delighted with the farmers because they got involved with us from day one, and that’s something that farmers don’t do sometimes. It was a bottom-up approach.
“We have our job done, now it’s up to the farmers,” he said.
Galvin believes that the efforts of farmers to install technology such as solar PV should be recognized in terms of emissions reduction targets for the agriculture sector, rather than being totally allocated to the energy sector.
“We are reducing our on-farm emissions by reducing our energy. Energy and emissions are very, very closely linked,” he said.