How does a solar PV installation work?

The PV panels are installed in south facing rows on your land.  Inverters take the DC power generated by the PV panels and convert this to AC power – the standard form of electricity for the National Grid.  The power is then distributed to the grid.  A generation meter records the amount of electricity generated and supplied to the grid.  The owner of the facility is then paid for the power generated.  In return for leasing land, the landowner shares in this revenue through a regular rental income.  This amount is established at the outset of our agreement via a long-term lease and protected from inflation for 25 years.

What does JBM offer?

JBM provides a complete turnkey service, operating as a single point of contact for the landowner through the entire grid/planning process and where relevant, during the construction phase. The company works with a select number of planning and environmental consultants, including specialists in archaeology, landscape and ecology for example. This ensures a responsible approach to the development, while also guaranteeing the installation remains sensitive to needs of the local community and environment.

As landowner, how much could I earn?

To promote the development of the renewable energy industry in Ireland and to help the country meet its binding EU targets, the government is expected to announce a new support mechanism for renewable energy projects (including solar)  in 2017. This will form the basis of the solar project’s revenue from which the land rental payments will be made. With the exception of grid connection, the cost of installation remains broadly similar for each site.  However, the level of production can differ considerably. The rent we can offer varies according to a number of key factors, including:

  • Your location in Ireland – this determines the solar resource available,
  • The site’s aspect, shading and gradient – this has a bearing on energy production,
  • Grid connection cost – this is a key variable in determining installation cost.

As every site is different, we create a bespoke deal for each landowner.  We finalise this once we confirm the site is capable of producing sufficient energy.  Typically, a landowner can expect to receive annual rent in excess of €700 per acre, increasing to as much as €1,000 for sites with strong generation potential.

What risks do I face?

The financial risks are minimal for the landowner. Our relationship operates as a straight-forward land rental agreement, bound by a contractual lease. The solar plant is set up as a separate company with its own legal identity, thereby ensuring it remains separate and distinct from any potential financial liabilities of JBM. Your rental agreement is with the individual solar project company; with a guaranteed revenue stream from the UK government for energy generated, and a predictable level of energy generation, the operational risks for this company is low.

How long do PV modules last?

While it is likely that  any government support will only extend to 20 years, the lifespan of PV panels is significantly longer.  If left in place, the installation would be expected to generate electricity for at least 10 more years. While we no longer receive subsidy support beyond 20 years, we still receive income from exporting power back to the grid.  For this reason, our standard lease is a minimum of 25 years.  We typically seek an option to extend this for another five years, although this is at the landowner’s discretion.

Is there enough sunlight in the Ireland for PV solar installation?

The short answer is yes. PV solar generation relies on diffused light – not just direct sunlight – in order to generate electricity. This ensures power is generated even on a cloudy day in winter, albeit at a lower rate than bright summer’s day.

How do I know my land is suitable for a PV installation?

Once contacted by the landowner, JBM carries out an initial desktop feasibility assessment.  Before visiting the site, we can establish its suitability based on a number of different factors such as flood risk, shading, visual impact and topography to name just a few.  Once we establish basic suitability, we visit the site to consider it in more detail.  With the landowner’s authority, we also begin the process of establishing whether it is possible to connect the site to the  grid.  JBM carries out all this work at its own risk, with zero cost to the landowner.

Is planning required and will I be responsible for this?

Any ground-mounted solar installation will require planning consent.  JBM manages this process, including preparation of the planning documents, liaising with the local planning authority and any interaction with the local community.  Where necessary, JBM will also be on hand for any public consultation process.

For how long will I be required to lease my land?

The basic lease we require is for 25 years, with no break provision.  Depending on the size of the installation, this could be a multi-million euro investment. In order to recoup that investment and to generate a sufficient return, we require the full term for generation of electricity.  It is therefore important that as landowner, you are comfortable with the long-term nature of our agreement.

What happens at the end of the lease?

In short, we commit to returning your land to its current state.  We remove all traces of the solar plant and the land can revert to its former use.  This is not just a contractual agreement between you and us – it is typically a precondition for the local  county council to grant planning consent.

Is permission required to connect the installation to the National Grid?

Yes.  An application must be made to the Distribution System Operator (ESB) for approval prior to carrying out the installation – JBM manages this from start to finish.   We typically run this process in parallel with preparation of the planning application.

What is the construction time?

This depends on the size of the installation. For large, multi-megawatt installations, a typical build process takes at least three months.