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Renewable energy installation skills to see surge in demand in NI

A change to planning legislation in Northern Ireland is likely to create a surge in demand for people skilled in the installation of roof-mounted domestic solar panels in the province.

From April 30, people wishing to install microgeneration equipment – including solar panels – on commercial or public buildings including farms, schools and businesses, will not have to seek planning permission to do so.

Environment Minister, Alex Atwood, said that abolishing the need for planning permission will make the process of installation much easier and help to meet renewable energy targets.

“This is a good boost for a cleaner, greener Northern Ireland,” he said. “By removing red tape around having to make a planning application, schools, businesses and farms will be able to enjoy the benefits of solar energy much more easily. For them it will mean cheaper, greener, cleaner energy – a win for consumers and a win for the environment.”

The legislation will also apply to other renewable energy and heat sources including heat pumps and biomass boiler housing.

The anticipated surge in demand that the legislation is expected to cause will likely see skilled tradesmen and women put in high demand, and will lead companies and organisations to seek the expertise wherever they can find it – including across the Irish Sea.

Trevor Dornan, from East Belfast Mission's Skainos Project, said that solar panels have proven to be incredibly beneficial for them and he cannot recommend them highly enough.

“Solar energy makes sense for the environment and for our business – we have reduced electricity/heating bills and harnessing the sun's energy fits with our organisation's overall green aims to reduce, reuse and recycle,” he told the Belfast Telegraph. “I encourage other organisations to install solar panels and I believe that removing the need for planning permission will make the process easier, quicker and more economical.”