Windfarm firm pledges €250m bonanza to locals
COMMUNITIES will enjoy a €250m bonanza if controversial plans for a large-scale windfarm in the midlands goes ahead.
Element Power, which plans to erect 40 farms across 20,000 hectares in Offaly, Westmeath and Laois, said €10m a year would be given to families and communities living near turbines, with another €1bn paid to the three local authorities in rates over 25 years.
And chief executive Tim Cowhig said no pylons or power lines would be erected to transport the power across the country.
All wires would be placed underground, but two large sub-stations would be required to convert the electricity into a form suitable for transmission.
Mr Cowhig was speaking at the Dail Environment Committee which was discussing proposed large-scale windfarms in the midlands which are designed to export power to the UK.
Three separate plans for large-scale farms to serve the UK market have been proposed.
One is Element Power's Greenwire project, which plans farms across Meath, Westmeath, Kildare, Laois and Offaly; a second planned by Bord na Mona would see 20,000 hectares of land in Offaly and Kildare used, while a third company – Mainstream Renewable Power – is proposing farms in six counties which will produce 5,000MW of power, sufficient for more than four million homes.
Both Bord na Mona and Element Power appeared before the committee, which was told that Ireland's abundance of wind presented an opportunity to create as many as 10,000 construction and related jobs for the Greenwire project alone during a three-year construction period.
Some 1,000km of new access roads would be constructed as part of the project.
"In Ireland, we have an abundance of wind, much more than for our needs, and we have an opportunity to create jobs," Mr Cowhig said.
"The midland regions has an untapped resource of wind. If granted planning permission, Greenwire plans a comprehensive community benefit package. It would operate for the duration of the windfarm's commercial lifetime (of 25 years).
Around €250m would be paid in community benefit for the 3,000MW project over 25 years, with more than €1bn to councils.
The comments came after a new report from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) shows that in the past five years, deployment of renewable energy has saved over €1bn in imported fuel bills and has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by 12 million tonnes.
SEAI chief executive Brian Motherway said that as the debate over wind energy for domestic use gathered momentum, it was important that the discussion was based on "factual evidence and not myths".
"Many people are concerned about renewable energy proposals in their communities," he said. "However, false information only serves to worry people further.
"That's not saying that wind farms can be built everywhere. There are places where turbines have been controversial, but I have faith in the planning system."
The report says that 7pc of all energy demand came from renewables in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Wind energy produced over 15.3pc of all electricity generated that year.