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An Bord Pleanála

Appeal lodged over development of €100 million solar farm near Punchestown Racecourse

There had previously been objections from multiple stakeholders in the horseracing industry.

A PLANNING APPEAL has been lodged to An Bord Pleanála (ABP) over a €100 million solar farm in Co Kildare, which was approved by the local council last month.

Over 100 people initially submitted objections to the solar farm, which is on a 129 hectare site outside Swordlestown in Kildare.

The development proposes to build over 230,000 solar panels across the site and when completed would provide 125 megawatts of power to the grid, which could provide enough power for 20,500 homes in Kildare.

The site itself would be in operation for 35 years, according to the developer.

The developer, Strategic Power Projects Limited, received planning permission for the project in late July after originally applying for the project in February.

Despite approval from Kildare County Council, there were 15 appeals lodged with An Bord Pleanála on 10 August.

Among those appellants were Friends of Swordlestown Little Stud (FSLS), a stud farm that it located in the immediate vicinity of the proposed solar farm.

The group had also objected to the solar farm at council level, calling the development “inappropriate and unsuitable” due to the presence of multiple stud farms in the area.

In their original submission, FSLS say that due to the sites proximity to both stud farms and Punchestown Racecourse, there is a “significant land use conflict” with the currently established equine industry.

“The proposed development would materially and adversely impact on the operation of the stud farm at Swordlestown Little and on other stud farms in the area,” the submission reads.

Punchestown Racecourse also submitted objections to the project earlier this year, saying that the proposed solar farm was of “grave concern” due to any potential impact it could have on the racecourse.

There were also objections from the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA), who raised concerns about the welfare of animals and the potential loss of “acres of prime grazing land”.

In their submission, the ITBA said that the high density solar farm was not compatible with stud farming and that members of the association were concerned about the potential negative impact on their businesses.

“The bloodstock industry’s valued and respected image throughout the world would be damaged by the prominence of an industrial solar facility in the heart of the thoroughbred county,” the ITBA submission to Kildare County Council reads.

The appeal against the farm comes just weeks after the Government agreed to cut emissions in the electricity generation sector by 75% by 2030.

This means that Ireland will have to move towards renewable energy sources, including solar and wind farms and reduce reliance on fossil fuel generators.

It also comes amidst concerns over Ireland’s energy supply, with EirGrid warning in a major report last year that there could be electricity shortages over the next four winters.

Once completed, the solar farm itself would be unmanned and would be supervised via CCTV cameras around the facility.

According to the developer, it would take a year to construct the solar farm, with the longest portion of the works being the installation of solar panels followed by installing the cabling.

The developer had sought a 10 year planning permission, with all construction expected to go in tandem with the construction of an electrical substation.

An Bord Pleanála is not set to issue a decision on the appeal until December.

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