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Solar Power

Planning permission no longer required to install solar panels on houses

Exemptions also apply to a range of non-domestic buildings.

LAST UPDATE | 7 Oct 2022

PLANNING PERMISSION IS no longer required to install solar panels on houses and certain non-domestic buildings.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien signed the revised planning exemptions into law today.

Houses, regardless of location, may now install unlimited solar panels on their rooftops without any requirement for planning permission.

Exemptions also apply for industrial buildings, business premises, community and educational buildings, places of worship, health buildings, libraries, certain public utility sites and farms.

However, some restrictions continue to apply, including on developments near certain aviation sites, protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas.

Climate change

The exemptions are aimed at increasing Ireland’s generation of solar energy and combating climate change and the new law has taken immediate effect.

It aims to bring Ireland into line with the EU’s Solar Rooftops Initiative by making the procedures for installing solar panels on rooftops shorter and simpler.

The Department says the new regulations will also support the Small-Scale Generation Support Scheme (SSG), which is expected to become available next year.

This support scheme is designed to enable farmers, businesses and others to maximise their participation in the energy transition.

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien said the new exemptions are about ensuring that everyone can “play their part in creating a zero-carbon future fuelled by renewable energy”.

He added that it will also ensure individuals, communities, businesses and farms can generate their own electricity and reduce their bills”.

“These regulations implement… will help Ireland meet the Government’s Climate Action Plan targets,” said Minister O’Brien.

New regulations

Under the revised regulations, there is no limit to the area of solar panels which can be installed on rooftops of homes, anywhere in the country. 

Previously, panels larger than 12 square metres on homes and 50 square metres on businesses requires planning permission.

Solar panel installations on rooftops of all other existing classes of development covering the entire roof are also exempt from requiring planning permission.

However, 43 designated Solar Safeguarding Zones have been identified with the Irish Aviation Authority, within which a rooftop limit remains (this limit has been increased from 50 square metres to 300 square metres).

These Solar Safeguarding Zones mitigate the potential impact of glint and glare near airports, aerodromes and other sites with helipads, like hospitals.

Meanwhile, free-standing solar panel installations for houses are also exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission.

This is subject to a 25 square metre area limit and conditions requiring a certain amount of private open space be maintained for the use of occupants.

The exempted area for all other categories, except apartments, is increased to 75 square metres.  

In addition, wall mounted solar installations of 75 square metres are exempted for industrial and agricultural.

However, all of the above is subject to general restrictions including those regarding protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas.

Commenting on the revised planning exemptions, Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage Malcolm Noonan said: “It is important that we ensure sufficient safeguards for our protected structures and architectural conservation areas from inappropriate development.”

He added that he is satisfied that the amendments provide necessary safeguards and encouraged people to engage with their local Heritage Officer or Conservation Officer for further information and support.

Writing in The Journal in advance of today’s announcement, Deputy Jennifer Whitmore, the Climate and Biodiversity spokesperson for the Social Democrats, welcomed the changes but said they are long overdue. 

“In effect, the Government has solved a problem of its own design,” wrote Whitmore.

“It has finally acted to amend its own very restrictive planning rules – something that was always in its own gift to do.”

She added that “planning rules have not been the only impediment to progress” and that the “cost of having solar panels installed remains prohibitive”.

Whitmore pointed to the Social Democrats alternative budget, which called on the Government to install solar panels on 100,000 homes – free of charge – over the next two years.

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