Irish developer Gaelectric is preparing to deliver what is thought to be the largest solar project in the Republic of Ireland with an urban rooftop scheme at the Butlers Chocolates headquarters Dublin.

The 420kWp system will supply approximately 14% of the base load electricity requirement of the Butlers Chocolates factory when it begins generating power by the spring of 2017. The project will be Gaelectric’s first “behind the meter” power purchase agreement (PPA).

There is currently no subsidy or tariff available to solar installations in the Republic of Ireland but according to Joe O’Carroll, managing director of Gaelectric Solar Energy, lowering costs associated with the technology is making solar an attractive proposition for Irish companies.

“As solar PV technology has improved and reduced in price, PV technology is now a viable commercial option for a wide range of businesses that have both an onsite electricity requirement and available real estate (roof or ground) on which to mount PV solar installations,” he said.

O’Carroll added that the Butlers Chocolates project would be the first of many similar projects the company will be developing in the near term as it further develops its renewable energy offering for commercial and industrial energy consumers in Ireland and abroad.

Aisling Walsh, marketing director for Butlers Chocolates, said: “We are delighted to bring sunshine and chocolates together with Ireland’s largest solar power installation on the roof of the Butlers Chocolates factory in Clonshaugh.

“We are committed to the sustainable production of delicious chocolates. We source ethically from around the world and are continuously working to reduce the impacts of our manufacturing and distribution systems on the environment.

“This solar energy installation increases our use of renewable power in our manufacturing process and improves the sustainability of Butlers Chocolates.” 

While the project is being brought forward without the need to a government tariff, O’Carroll added that the deployment of renewable energy could be accelerated by the implementation of numerous low-cost policy changes by government.

In the absence of government support, projects like these are generally considered to go ahead with the help of grants. The current largest rooftop installation in Ireland – a 300kW system at Kingspan Insulation in Castleblayney – was part-funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

It is unknown what grants or other support will be provided to the upcoming Gaelectric project.

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