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Thursday 21 August 2014

Turbines are polarising, but more clean energy means lower bills

Paul Melia

Published 14/07/2014 | 02:30

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Wind turbines
Wind turbines

LOCAL communities have every right to feel aggrieved about large-scale wind farms being foisted upon them, but the NESC report does offer an alternative.

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By involving local people in every stage of the development process including identifying sites and giving them the option to invest or co-develop, it could remove the stumbling blocks which are only adding to our imported fuel bills and delaying taking action on climate change.

The NESC is charged with analysing and reporting to the Government on "strategic matters" relating to economic development and social justice.

Chaired by Martin Fraser, secretary general to the Government, it notes that Ireland has signed up to EU targets to produce 16pc of all energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Around 180 farms with 1,300 turbines are already in place, producing enough power for more than one million homes. The number is set to double over the coming years.

But there is very much a sense of 'us' versus 'them' when it comes to bringing the projects over the line. Communities have to live with turbines located near their homes, and rightly point out that in many cases, they are not sharing the financial benefits of facilitating this clean power generation.

Denmark, Germany and Canada have all introduced schemes where local communities can invest and share the wealth. In many cases, the government arranges or facilitates loans for people to get involved, meaning they have a vested interested in making sure the project works.

There are already examples of this here. Aran Islands Renewable Energy is a not-for-profit community group across the three islands with 42 members, which is planning to install a turbine. The Templederry windfarm in Tipperary is community-owned. There's no reason why similar projects couldn't go ahead across the country.

Turbines are polarising but they have a lifespan of just 20 to 25 years. They can be removed when better technology comes along.

In the meantime, we should be looking at producing as much clean energy as possible, if nothing else than to reduce our bills.

If the recommendations of the NESC are taken on board, we could move a step closer to that reality.

Irish Independent

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