The Government is to pay for solar panels for schools as part of the summer works programme next year.

The money will come from the Department of the Environment's Climate Action Fund but will be distributed through the Summer Works Scheme for schools which will have a new climate focus.

The initiative is expected to generate at produce at least 24MW of renewable generating capacity.

The solar panels will help to reduce energy costs for schools and will also help the education sector meet its emissions reductions targets. The 2021 Climate Action Plan set a target of 51% reduction by 2030 for schools.

The Government has set a goal of 380MW of installed solar micro-generation capacity by 2030. This would contribute to the target of up to 2.5GW of solar renewables. Depending on panel size, that equates to over 1 million solar panels, on approximately 70,000 buildings. There are around 4,000 schools in Ireland.

Minister for Education Norma Foley says 100% of the cost of solar panels will be covered and schools can apply in the coming months. This scheme is separate to the SEAI scheme for businesses announced earlier which will give grants towards the cost of solar panels for businesses and some public bodies.

The new Summer Works Scheme for schools, with an increased focus on climate targets will open for applications early next year and more details will be announced before the end of this year.

There have long been calls for solar panels on schools with both Friends of the Earth and Sinn Féin calling it "a no brainer".

Green Party Senator Pauline O'Reilly introduced a bill last year to exempt roof top solar panels from planning permission. Proposed regulations went out to public consultation this summer and it is expected the legislation will be finalised in the coming months.