Solar energy giant headed by Co Antrim man set to invest millions in Ireland
One of the biggest solar energy companies in the world - headed by Antrim man Nick Boyle - is aiming to invest several hundred million euro in Ireland over the next five years.
Lightsource Renewable Energy already has an office in Belfast and just last year received planning permission for a huge solar farm in Crumlin.
The UK-based firm, which is the world's third largest solar energy company outside of China and also the biggest in Europe, announced yesterday that it was making a "significant" investment right across Ireland.
The firm both develops stand-alone solar farms and pairs with property owners who rent out their land to host solar panels. It also installs and maintains the panels during their lifetime.
Nick Boyle, chief executive of Lightsource, said that the final amount invested would depend on the Republic government's consultation on renewable energy.
Advocates for solar energy hope that depending on the results of the Green Paper, which is seeking feedback on the role alternative technologies could play in renewable energy, subsidies will be put in place to encourage the development of solar energy in Ireland.
Mr Boyle said: "For us to be interested in Ireland at all, we need to be looking at hundreds of millions of euro. It is very much dependent on the consultation."
Asked why the company had decided to move into the Irish market he added: "The biggest solar market in the world is Germany, which has similar radiation levels to the UK, which has similar levels to Ireland.
"Solar isn't just about how much electricity you can generate, it's also about how much you can raise or deploy in a jurisdiction.
"If you can raise equity in Ireland at 7% - whereas in others you might have to raise it at 20% - it is a viable model."
He also claimed solar development in Ireland could be very rapid, saying: "Solar is different in deployment to something like wind. Our average deployment in the UK would be about nine months. We believe that if the market gets the funding it requires, it could be a 1.5 gigawatt market over the next five years.
"We would be very disappointed if we were not the owners of several hundred megawatts."
Energy of 1.5GW is enough to power 500,000 homes, and Lightsource has an operational portfolio of just over 1GW in Europe.
Mr Boyle said that the company, which employs about 350 people in the UK, had identified several Irish projects, although he declined to give further detail.