Farmers could lose out on availing of key agricultural reliefs, if over 50% of their land is covered in solar panels, Barry Caslin of Teagasc has said.

The energy and rural development specialist told the Irish Farmers Journal’s Renewable Roadshow meeting in Athlone on Tuesday night that it is very important for farmers to be aware of the potential succession implications of solar farms.

“At the moment, if you go over 50% of your land covered by solar PV panels, you lose your agricultural relief. That’s a very valuable relief, so it’s very important to be aware of that.

“The way the terms and conditions are at the moment, I don’t see it changing from that,” he said.

He said that the country’s Climate Action Plan targets would be more difficult to achieve by taxation challenges or hindrances.

The meeting also heard that while farmers can get tax and retirement relief on solar panels on their land, the same relief is not available for wind turbines on land. In this case, farmers were advised to look at serious tax planning or it could negatively impact on succession.

Direct payments

Clare farmer James Carroll asked if farmers could retain their Basic Income Support for Sustainability (BISS) payments while grazing sheep around solar panels.

Barry Caslin advised that farmers can keep their BISS payments if they install ground-mounted solar panels.

“If you covered 10ha with solar PV, you would probably lose 3ha or three entitlements [from BISS]. You can make that up by getting 3ha elsewhere or else selling those entitlements,” he said.

“You can graze the sheep, you’re carrying out an agricultural activity and you can get the BISS on that land.”