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Solar PV is a substantial global business that is in its infancy stages in Ireland. However, Ireland has a number of advantages by arriving late at the party:


The level of solar irradiation in Ireland is good and is comparable with most northern European countries. These countries - the UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark - have all invested heavily in solar PV over the last number of years and the solar industry is an important economic resource in all of these countries.


The cost of a solar PV installation has fallen significantly and PV is now the second-least-expensive form of renewable energy, after off-shore wind. PV can be installed quite quickly and does not attract the level of objections/planning complications that normally follow wind turbines, etc. Configurations are extremely flexible and they can be installed on a large scale or on a micro-level.


A recent report by KPMG forecasts that investment could underpin the creation of 7,300 jobs per year up to 2030, and would see the industry grow to become one of Ireland's key economic performers over the next decade. The report stressed: "Solar could provide an effective technology for multinational companies with an Irish presence seeking to source 100% of their electricity from renewable sources."


Ireland is now the only country in the EU that does not have any policy support for solar technology. There is no feed in tariff (FIT) available, and any surplus energy generated is supplied back to the national grid free of charge. However, there are strong indications that this will change.


Initially in Europe, PV growth was in the commercial sector, later spreading into the domestic sector. In Ireland, the main driver is Part L of the Building Regulations 2011, which applies to new domestic dwellings.


However, the commercial sector will benefit significantly more from a PV installation. For the most part, commercial businesses are open and consuming electricity primarily during daylight hours. With good design, matched to the individual requirement, the PV plant can operate to minimise the use of electricity from the grid and to maximise the advantage of FIT when introduced.


The other major factor in Ireland is the cost of electricity. Ireland has one of the highest electricity costs in Europe.


Due to the high cost of electricity, the payback for a commercial installation is between seven and eight years. This figure is based on the current cost of electricity, which will only rise. While the expected life of a PV installation is in excess of 25 years, ongoing savings will be substantial. This is without considering the returns of a FIT or the use of accelerated capital allowances.


Other advantages of PV are that a business can safeguard itself against further price increases. The business is now in control of its own plant and there is little, if any, maintenance. This can provide business with a significant competitive advantage, especially those businesses or industries that are heavily dependent on electrical power.


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