- Houses, regardless of location, may now install unlimited solar panels on their rooftops without any requirement for planning permission (subject to certain conditions)
- Exemptions also apply to rooftops of industrial buildings, business premises, community and educational buildings, places of worship, health buildings, libraries, certain public utility sites and farms.
- Certain restrictions continue to apply, including developments near certain aviation sites, protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas.
The Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien, TD, has signed into law revised planning exemptions for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of houses and certain non-domestic buildings. The exemptions are aimed at increasing Ireland’s generation of solar energy and combating climate change. The changes take immediate effect.
These regulations aim to bring Ireland into line with the EU’s Solar Rooftops Initiative by making permitting procedures for installing solar on rooftops shorter and simpler. It supports a target of installing up to 380MW (approximately 1 million solar panels) of microgeneration capacity as part of Ireland’s overall solar targets under the Government’s Climate Action Plan. This would generate over 300 GWh of renewable electricity per annum, with the potential to abate 1.4 million tonnes of CO2eq over the lifetime of the installations. The regulations will also support the rollout of small-scale generation and act as an enabler for the Small-Scale Generation Support Scheme (SSG), which is expected to become available next year.
Commenting on the regulations Minister O’Brien said:
“With these new exemptions we are removing barriers and ensuring that individuals, communities, businesses and farms can generate their own electricity, reduce their own bills and play their part in creating a zero-carbon future fuelled by renewable energy. These changes will facilitate the rollout of rooftop solar panels and, coupled with the Government-supported SEAI Solar PV grant, will see more people install solar panels across the country. This has the added benefit of increasing Ireland’s energy security, a major challenge given current energy pressures. These regulations implement an important commitment in the Programme for Government and will help Ireland meet the Government’s Climate Action Plan targets.”
Under the revised regulations the following is now allowed:
- For solar panel installations on houses: there is no limit to the area of solar panels which can be installed on rooftops of homes, anywhere in the country. Solar installations will be able to cover the entire roof of a house. The 12sqm/ 50% roof limit which previously applied to houses has been removed nationwide.
- For solar panel installations on rooftops of all other existing classes of development (Industrial; Light Industrial and Business Premises; Agricultural): rooftop solar installations covering the entire roof are exempt from requiring planning permission. However, in the 43 designated Solar Safeguarding Zones, a rooftop limit remains. Solar Safeguarding Zones are areas where rooftop limitations on solar panel installations apply, to mitigate the potential impact of glint and glare near airports, aerodromes and other sites with helipads like hospitals. The existing exemption of 50 square metres or less for the entire development has been increased to a rooftop limit of 300 square metres.
- Apartments; educational building/ health centre or hospital/ recreational or sports facility/ place of worship/ community facility or centre/ library/ certain public utility sites: exemptions have been introduced for the first time for the installation of solar panels on the rooftops of such buildings, subject to conditions and limitations and the rooftop area limit in solar safeguarding zones where applicable.
- Exemptions for wall-mounted and free-standing solar panel installations: free-standing solar panel installations for houses are exempted from the requirement to obtain planning permission subject to a 25 square metre area limit and conditions requiring a certain amount of private open space to 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.
Exemptions in relation to installations under points 1, 2 and 3 above are subject to, among other things, minor setback distances from the edge of the roof. Points 1-4 above are also subject to general restrictions on exempted development including those regarding protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas. Minister of State with responsibility for Local Government and Planning, Peter Burke TD, added: “Houses, regardless of location, will now be able to have solar panels installed on their roofs without any requirement for planning permission, which I know will be very welcome to many homeowners. The new exemptions for educational/community/ religious buildings will also give institutions such as schools greater opportunity to reduce their energy bills. The new exemptions will provide new financial and climate-related opportunities for farmers, underpinned by available grants.”
Commenting on the revised exemptions and the future of protected structures, Minister of State with responsibility for Heritage and Electoral Reform, Malcolm Noonan TD, said: “While buildings and areas of architectural heritage significance have a role to play in meeting our renewable energy ambition, it is important that we ensure sufficient safeguards for our protected structures and architectural conservation areas from inappropriate development. I am satisfied that these amendments as well as the existing safeguards in the Planning Act and Regulations provide the necessary safeguards. In most instances, a case-by-case assessment by the relevant planning authority will be necessary to ensure that solar development does not materially affect the character of our protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas. I’d encourage people to engage with their local Heritage Officer or Conservation Officer for information and support.”
Copies of the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 3) Regulations 2022 and the supporting Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022 will be available on the Irish Statute Book website. The Solar Safeguarding Zones are also available for viewing on the myplan.ie
Notes to Editor
Audio file from Minister O'Brien available from Press Office upon request.
Regulations and their objective
- The exemptions are set out in the Planning and Development Act 2000 (Exempted Development) (No. 3) Regulations 2022 (S.I. No. 493 of 2022) and the supporting Planning and Development (Solar Safeguarding Zone) Regulations 2022(S.I. No. 492 of 2022). The regulations combine to provide the updated provisions regarding planning exemptions for rooftop solar installations.
- These regulations aim to bring Ireland into line with the EU’s Solar Rooftops Initiative by making permitting procedures for installing solar on rooftops shorter and simpler. It supports a target of installing up to 380MW (approximately 1 million solar panels) of microgeneration capacity as part of Ireland’s overall solar targets under the Government’s Climate Action Plan. This would generate over 300 GWh of renewable electricity per annum, with the potential to abate 1.4 million tonnes of CO2eq over the lifetime of the installations. The regulations will also support the rollout of small-scale generation and act as an enabler for the Small-Scale Generation Support Scheme (SSG), which is expected to become available next year.
Solar Safeguarding Zones
Solar safeguarding zones, which constitute less than 3% of the country’s land area, are necessary to address aviation safety concerns due to the potential impact of glint and glare arising from increased solar developments in proximity to sites such as airports and hospitals (which have helipads). Anyone seeking to avail of larger rooftop solar installations within solar safeguarding zones can apply for planning permission through the relevant local planning authority.
Solar exempted developments within a solar safeguarding zone for all classes other than houses must be notified to the planning authority within 4 weeks of the development commencing.
How does the 300sqm limitation per roof work in practice?
The limits for rooftop, wall mounted and free-standing are stand-alone limits. Therefore, in the case of an agricultural holding within a SSZ with two agricultural structures, the following can be installed under the exemptions, subject to the energy generated being used primarily (greater than 50%) for use within the curtilage of the agricultural holding:
- 300sqm of panels on the roof of each agricultural structure = 600sqm total
- 75sqm total on all walls
- 75sqm total free-standing panels
- Total overall= 750sqm
Can energy generated using the exemption be sold back to the grid?
- There are no restrictions on the energy generated from solar installations on a house. Therefore, excess energy generated by a household may be sold back to the grid.
- All other classes have a restriction that the installation shall be primarily for the production of energy for use within the building or sites’ curtilage.
- The intention behind this limitation is to ensure that the buildings remain in use and do not change to a commercial energy generating use with the building falling vacant or derelict.
- As outlined in the Climate Action Plan, the focus of the review of these regulations was on micro-generation and on facilitating the generation of electricity for self-consumption.
- The exemptions for all classes (with the exception of houses) only apply where the installation relates primarily to the provision of electricity or heating for use within the curtilage of the building or site.
- “Primarily” is defined to mean greater than 50%.
What are the general restrictions on exempted development in respect of protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas?
Both the Planning and Development Act 2000 (the Act) and the Planning and Development Regulations 2001 (the Regulations) contain provisions for the protection of, amongst other things, protected structures and Architectural Conservation Areas by way of restrictions on exempted development. These provisions apply to the current solar planning exemptions and have not been amended as part of the current review.
Under the legislation, the carrying out of works to a protected structure, or a proposed protected structure, shall be exempted development only if those works would not materially affect the character of the structure. The carrying out of works to the exterior of a structure located in an Architectural Conservation Area shall be exempted development only if those works would not materially affect the character of the area.
Further, the new exemptions contain a condition that de-exempts free-standing panels that would materially affect the character of an Architectural Conservation Area.
With regard to what would materially affect the character of a protected structure or Architectural Conservation Area and any uncertainty as to when planning permission is required, a person may contact the relevant planning authority and seek a declaration under section 5 of the Act that will confirm the position. In addition, a declaration in relation to a protected structure may be sought under section 57 of the Act by the owner or occupier of the structure.
What public utility sites are covered by the exemption?
- Sites for the provision of gas, electricity, telecommunications services or water supplies or wastewater services operated by a statutory undertaker.
What grants are available for solar panel installation?
A solar electricity grant is available through the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) Solar PV Scheme. The scheme is funded under the Microgeneration Support Scheme, a government funded support Scheme introduced to provide a range of supports to assist homes to develop renewable generation for self-consumption. The Scheme provides a grant towards the purchase and installation of a solar PV system on a domestic dwelling.