Coillte land 'can meet half of new energy needs'
Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30
The state's forestry agency says it has half of all the land needed to hit Ireland's renewable energy targets by 2020.
Coillte has mapped its entire 445,000 hectares of land, which is spread across the country, and marked it according to its potential use, including suitability for not only forestry but wind and solar generation, chief executive Fergal Leamy told the Irish Independent.
The vast majority of the portfolio is earmarked for forestry, but as much as 20,000 hectares is regarded as suitable for non-core projects, that can range from tourism to power generation, he said.
The semi-State company said it can develop wind and solar power projects itself but is also open partnering with private operators.
"We won't try to do everything ourselves, if people want to come in and use the land we can have a conversation," he said.
Even if Coillte develops wind and solar farms, it does not see itself as a long-term operator.
With approximately 6pc of the entire country on its books, Coillte is responsible for managing trails and tracks used by the public, historic properties including Avondale, Co Wicklow, and amenity sites like Lough Key forest, as well as commercial forestry.
The company generated profits last year of €47.6m, two-thirds more than the previous year. The company paid a €5m dividend to the State.