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June 2015

Question

I would like to install solar panels on the roof of my home. Do I need planning permission for this? Are there any restrictions or limitations I should be aware of?

 

Answer

Solar energy is an attractive proposition due to the potential financial savings that can accrue and the grants that are available from the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland). Since 2011, under the Better Energy Homes Programme, nearly 12,000 grant applications have been approved for solar heating, while close to 7,000 grants have been paid, totalling over €5.3 million (latest SEAI statistics, 1st March, 2015). For the environmentally conscious, it has the added benefit of reducing the carbon footprint of your home. Fortunately, the installation of solar panels on domestic properties is exempt from planning permission under the Planning and Development (Amendment) Regulations 2007, subject to certain conditions. These conditions are as follows:

  1. The size of any such panel together with any other such panel previously placed on or within the said curtilage, shall not exceed 12 sq m or 50 per cent of the total roof area, whichever is the lesser;
  2. The distance between the wall or a pitched roof and the panel shall not exceed 15cm;
  3. The distance between the plane of a flat roof and the panel shall not exceed 50cm and
  4. The solar panel shall be a minimum of 50cm from any edge of the wall or roof on which it is mounted.

It should be noted that there are further restrictions on free-standing solar units, which are not located on a roof. Where the proposed works do not comply with the foregoing, it will be necessary to contact your local planning department for specific guidance. In addition, depending on the exact classification (eg protected structure) or location of the property (eg architectural conservation area), further requirements may need to be considered.

There are two basic types of solar panels, evacuated tubes and flat plates. Evacuated tubes are more efficient, but some consider them to be less visually appealing. It has always been considered that the ideal position for solar panels is a south facing aspect. However, current thinking suggests that a west facing aspect may actually be better. Notwithstanding, and given the initial capital investment required, it is always advisable to obtain as much information as possible from suppliers and existing homeowners in advance of making a financial commitment.

Andrew O’Gorman is a member of the MediKids Planning and Development Surveying Professional Group.