Galway County Council has granted planning permission for a 62 hectare solar farm south of Tuam.
Tuam Energy Park Ltd has been granted a ten year approval for a solar power farm on lands in the townlands of Cloontoa, Rinkippeen, Cloonascragh, Barnacurragh and Ballykeaghra.
This will consist of rows of ground mounted solar panels in a fixed, south facing position, in rows that will be approximately three to four metres apart, and rising no more than 3.2m above the terrain.
Other works in the project will include three substation buildings spread around the site, 20 smaller medium voltage (MV) substations, perimeter fencing, and one communications pole/weather station with satellite dish, which will be approximately 4m in height.
Vehicle access to the solar farm will be via seven access points which are already in existence on the ten parcels of land which make up the site, and an internal road network will be laid out.
A Flood Risk Assessment, Ecological Impact Assessment, and Natura Impact Statement were submitted with this application among other expert reports.
Seven submissions were received by the county council from members of the public with concerns about the potential environmental impact and effect on local biodiversity caused by this project.
Other concerns related to the potential visual impact of the development, the intensification of ESB infrastructure, and how these could affect property values.
Last November 19 the county council requested more information from the developer in the area of, among other concerns, an enhanced report on the visual impact of the development.
This enhanced report was to consider the cumulative impact of this development, and another 43ha solar farm approved nearby at Cloonascragh, Tuam.
One entrance to the site was also relocated due to concerns about its proximity to the Tuam Civic Amenity Site.
Planning permission was ultimately granted for the solar farm by Galway County Council for a period of 25 years, with 16 conditions attached.
Among those are a number of safety precautions to protect the adjacent railway line during construction, and to ensure that the solar farm’s operation doesn’t affect railway traffic.
Tuam Energy Park Ltd must also hire an archaeologist to monitor any excavation works associated with the development for materials of archaeological interest.