The former North and South Tipperary County Councils, now Tipperary County Council, established Tipperary Energy Agency in 1998 with the aim of developing better sustainable energy usage and improved energy
management. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan published in 2009 set out a national target of a 20% reduction in energy demand for Ireland. Recognising that the Government must lead by example, the
public sector was challenged to achieve a 33% reduction in public sector energy usage by 2020 relative to 2009 levels. In 2014 Tipperary Energy Agency embarked on a programme to install solar PV panels on Tipperary County Council’s public buildings. Market research findings confirmed the availability of suppliers with the capacity to design and install the PV panels and a public procurement exercise was initiated. The energy requirement for each building was quantified and the installations were designed to produce energy that would be used whilst the buildings were operating only. The cost of the project was approximately €326,850, of which 50% was funded under the Better Communities Scheme of the SEAI. The project payback period, including the grant contribution, was seven years.
This project involved the installation of just under 200kW of solar PV panels on nine Tipperary local authority buildings to provide clean, renewable electricity and reduce demand from the grid by over 164MWh per year.
The buildings included civic offices, fire stations, leisure centres and libraries (Figure 1.0).
The role of Tipperary Energy Agency was to facilitate public procurement and project management from the initial stages of feasibility studies and project creation, through to detailed design. Tipperary Energy Agency worked closely with the contractors and Tipperary County Council to ensure that the project was delivered to a very high standard.
Benefits of solution
The use of solar panels has offset 70 tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum since 2014. The project was a significant contributor in assisting Tipperary County Council to meet its energy efficiency targets, currently at 35%. The savings per annum are 161MWh from these nine installations of solar PV panels.
The nine installations were expected to generate, on average, 164,473kWh per year. In practice they generated an average of 161,275kWh per year, 98% of the initial designed generation. From the most recent monitoring exercise carried out in 2019, the total project is saving Tipperary County Council ¤23,384 per year with little or no maintenance required. Since the installation of these solar PV panels, installation costs have reduced significantly. Costs are currently approximately €1,100/kW compared to over €1,700/kW when the panels were initially installed. Tipperary County Council has a further 300kW solar PV project planned in 2019 with these units being designed to generate electricity on site, supply excess to the national grid, and generate revenue for the local authority. Other societal drivers of PVs are the recent changes in Building Regulations, which require a certain amount of renewable energy to be economically attained through the installation of solar PV panels. As noted in the Climate Action Plan, there is a plan to introduce a feed-in tariff for microgeneration, which will increase PV installation and contribute to CO2 offsetting in Ireland. This report predicts that a total of 1.5GW solar PV will be installed in Ireland by 2030.
This project increased the PV capacity in the country by 44% in 2014 and was a flagship project to encourage other sectors to invest in solar panels as a replacement for non-renewable energy sources.
Figure 1.0: Joe MacGrath, CEO, Tipperary County Council – Nenagh Civic
Buildings solar PV.