It has been announced that the rules on planning permission for the installation of solar panels are to be relaxed in Northern Ireland.

Alex Attwood, environment minister in the Northern Ireland executive, has said that schools, businesses and farm buildings will no longer need planning permission in order to add the energy saving technology to property.

This applies to any microgeneration equipment which generates heat or electricity from sunlight.

These improvements are set to come into full operation by the end of April this year and are in addition to previous rules in regards to installations on domestic solar panels.

Mr Attwood described the move a "good boost" as Northern Ireland aims to increase its clean, green energy production.

"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," he added.

Furthermore, Mr Attwood said that this is "a win for consumers and a win for the environment".

While homes in Northern Ireland were the only group to benefit from the law before, more facilities will be able to cut down on the carbon emissions and reduce their annual energy bills.

“Increasing the range of development that no longer needs planning permission will make it easier for businesses and other non-domestic properties to install renewable energy technologies," Mr Attwood said. 

"Technologies such as solar panels, heat pumps, biomass boiler housing and fuel storage containers all contribute to reducing the impact of climate change."

The announcement of the scheme came shortly after the University of Ulster (UU) revealed details of research conducted to solar cell activity.

UU has received £700,000 for its studies into microscopic matter in solar panels, with the project expected to bring forward materials to increase the efficiency of panels.

Dr Davide Mariotti, principal investigator, said: "The exploration and development of photovoltaic or solar technology would be a major breakthrough for photovoltaics, for the national energy strategy and could provide a headstart for the UK's emerging solar energy industry.