AIB to install solar energy plant on Dublin headquarters roof

Installation expected to reduce bank’s carbon footprint by 115 tonnes annually

An impression of what AIB will look like when the solar-energy installation has been retrofitted.

An impression of what AIB will look like when the solar-energy installation has been retrofitted.

 

AIB is planning to transform the roof space of its Dublin headquarters into one of the largest solar-energy installations in the State.

The bank has teamed up with energy firm Power Capital to retrofit its Bankcentre campus in Ballsbridge with solar cells.

The system, which includes a solar car port – the first of its kind in the State – will occupy more than 2,700sq m of roof area and generate enough energy to power 40 houses or, in AIB’s case, 1,410 computers.

It will reduce the bank’s carbon footprint by 115 tonnes annually.

AIB is one of the first big Irish corporates to adopt the new technology, which is fast rivalling wind as the primary renewable energy source across Europe.

In Irish terms, the project is eclipsed in size only by Kingspan’s Portadown factory, but represents the biggest urban rooftop installation of solar photovoltaic.

Lead financer

AIB wants to position itself as the lead financer of renewable-energy projects. Billions of euro of investment will be required if Ireland is to meet its 2020 and 2030 carbon targets.

“To be the market leader in financing solar you need to understand it. Having a living lab on the roof moves us from the theory to the practicality,” said Ray O’Neill of AIB’s office of sustainable business.

“Solar is the consumer champion in the renewable-energy space. It scales from a few panels on a home to acres of panels and it’s getting cheaper every day,” he said.

Ireland lags behind other European Union countries in adopting solar, despite receiving similar levels of radiation to countries such as the UK, which is now the sixth-biggest globally in terms of total installed capacity, behind China, Germany, Japan, the US and Italy.

In May this year, solar produced more electricity in the UK than coal for the first time.

Levy

The industry has yet to take off here, however, reflecting the fact that most of the public-service-obligation levy, which incentivises the use of renewables, goes towards subsidising wind.

“If solar energy is to make a significant contribution to meeting Ireland’s 2020 renewable-energy targets then the Government must take action to supply the technology in a similar manner to other energy generators,” said Justin Brown, director and co-founder of Power Capital.

“We continue to support fossil fuel with annual subsidies while solar energy, which has been successfully adopted by the UK and the rest of Europe, is sitting in the wings without any support,” he said.

Dublin-based Power Capital was set up 2011 as an investment vehicle for the renewable energy sector, specialising in the European solar market.