Posted Sep 2023
For the last five or six years there has been uncertainty in relation to how the Department would treat land leased to developers to build solar farms and how this impacts upon your ability to claim your Basic Payment Scheme.
We advised clients that there was a risk that all the land occupied by the Lease may be deemed “ineligible” land or at best, the area occupied by the footprint of the panels and associated equipment would be deemed to be ineligible.
Finally, clarification has been obtained from the Department in time for you to make your application for your BPS by 16 May.
The Department in a statement set out by Stephen Robb in the Irish Famers Journal states that land eligibility under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) will be examined on an individual basis.https://www.farmersjournal.ie/department-clarifies-bps-position-on-solar-panels-612474
As anticipated, the Department will regard solar panels as an “ineligible feature” in your claims.
However, the Department are taking the footprint of the panels into account rather than the footprint of the Lease.
For every 10 acres that a landowner signs a solar Lease for approximately 3 or 4 acres would be covered by the panels and associated equipment.
However, the Department have put some restrictions on this.
When considering whether a parcel of land is eligible or ineligible, the Department when making their decision, if the total area of the panels and infrastructure together with any other “ineligible features” such as rock, gorse etc. reduces the area of the land parcel by less than 70% then an appropriate percentage deduction would be made to the ”eligible area”.
However, if the panels and other ineligible features reduce the “Eligible area” by more than 70% then there will be a 100% deduction made and the whole parcel is deemed “ineligible”.
Land covered by panels will only be deemed “eligible” where you, as the landowner:-
Can continue your farming practices, i.e. grazing sheep.
Have independent access. Access over an adjoining landowner’s land or land which is subject to a Lease/rental agreement is not acceptable.
There must be a clause/ separate agreement with Developer allowing grazing over the Leased land.
Many Lease agreements with solar developers grant a formal right of grazing.
Farmers should also ask for an indemnity in relation to any loss of single farm payments and some developers will agree to this.
If you have any further queries on Wind/Solar Options or Lease Agreements on your farm please contact us below.
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