A COMPANY planning to build up to 40 wind farms in the midlands hopes to seek planning permission for its ambitious project next year.
Element Power, a US-based company with offices in Cork, plans to erect up to 700 turbines and export all the power generated to the UK, which is facing an energy crisis over the coming years.
Mounting public opposition to wind farms in the UK is among the reasons to locate the project here, and Element Power has already reached agreement to sell the power into the UK's national grid.
The company has held preliminary talks with An Bord Pleanala about securing planning permission for its ambitious plans, called Greenwire, and has also held discussions with EirGrid, which operates the national grid here.
A spokesman said that Ireland had a large, untapped wind resource which could be developed for export without impacting on the country's targets to have 20pc of all power produced from renewable sources by 2020..
"While two years of planning work has already gone into the Greenwire project, it is still one year away from submitting a planning application," he said.
"The promoters have met the local authorities of the five midland counties and ecological studies have begun around identified sites.
"The promoters are also in ongoing discussions with An Bord Pleanala with a view to confirming the project as a strategic infrastructure development."
Earlier this year the Government launched its "Strategy for Renewable Energy 2012-2020" which identifies the export of renewable energy as one of five strategic goals for the State.
Discussions are under way between the UK and Irish governments about signing a Memorandum of Understanding which would allow energy to be exported to the UK through a high-volume interconnector electricity line opened last month.
Ireland has been chosen as a site because of mounting opposition to wind farms across Britain.
More than 100 Conservative backbenchers wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron earlier this year demanding he cut the £400m (€495m) in annual subsidies paid to wind developers.
Greenwire will cost €8bn to deliver. It involves building up to 700 turbines in Westmeath, Offaly, Laois, Meath and Kildare and exporting all the power via cables under the Irish Sea to Wales.
Some 3,000MW will be produced -- the equivalent of five power stations -- and electricity could start flowing from 2018, if permission is granted.
The British government will also have to approve the payment of subsidies to produce the renewable energy, which are provided to UK-based businesses.
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