Local municipality governments swamped with solar farm proposals

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Mäo solar farm. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Larger and larger solar farms are planned in southeastern Estonia and local municipality governments are struggling with having to base their decisions on detail plans submitted years ago, when the demand for solar farms was not foreseen to such extent.

Põlva municipality gets at least one permit application a day to develop a or collect solar energy. If the application is to set up solar panels on residential land or in the vicinity of a small village, the municipality is in a difficult situation with building permits, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Monday.

"The large solar farms are the issue. There are conflicts with the local community and that needs to be assessed. Our South Estonian county plan also establishes valuable landscapes," said Põlva deputy municipality mayor Martti Rõigas.

In Võru County, developers' wishes of developing a large solar park in environmentally valuable areas is causing conflicting views. "It is bothering the owners of neighboring plots and will change the general view of the municipality. Those panels are primarily placed in locations where access to the power grid is close, there are usually many people living there and it will also disturb the beautiful views of Antsla municipality," said Antsla deputy municipality mayor Kurmet Müürsepp.

Andres Meesak, head of the Estonian Renewable Energy Association, said that large investments need to be made into renewable energy in order to develop a carbon neutral energy sector by 2050.

Farmers are also facing tough decisions - whether they should tend to their fields, develop a solar farm of their own or sell the land to the highest bidder. "This solar park is not on valuable farmland, but rather on farmland that is overgrown and too moist, so it could not be farmed," said farmer Kaido Kõiv.

According to local municipality governments, the confusion could be avoided by general plans or state regulations that would determine locations for solar parks. "I think we should definitely try to regulate this issue across local municipalities on a state level, because all municipalities are struggling," Martti Rõigas noted.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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