Saturday 27 December 2014

There is a way to harness wind energy – and get paid for it

Published 15/04/2014 | 02:30

The science is clear – climate change is happening. What we do next dictates how severe its impact will be, and how we protect the planet for future generations.

As many as 10,000 people are expected to attend a "monster rally" in Dublin today to highlight opposition to wind turbines.

It comes amid a sense that these large-scale projects are developer-led and are foisted upon rural communities.

There's a need to revisit our energy strategy and come up with other solutions, opponents say, but what are the alternatives?

There's nuclear or fracking, but are they preferable?

There's continuing to use fossil-fuel plants and burn oil, gas and coal, which of course won't reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We could also throw out our mobiles, laptops and other conveniences of modern life and reduce electricity consumption to near zero.

For most, these are unpalatable options. But there is an alternative.

More than a decade ago the Canadian government proposed a special type of investment fund where local people could, for as little as $1,500 (€980), invest in community-owned wind farms.

This allowed people to shape where wind farms were located, but also helped provide jobs and share the wealth generated. The gain went beyond money for the landowner, or a new sports field, but translated into cash for all shareholders.

The model is successful in Nova Scotia, and may be a very real option for Ireland.

Having local buy-in could help remove one barrier for renewable energy, and give communities the chance to financially benefit from tackling climate change.

ROYALTY

This model is already in Ireland – the first community-owned windfarm is in Templeerry, Co Tipperary. There's no reason why it couldn't be extended to other counties, provided there's the will.

The average turbine lasts for about 20 years. There's no reason why a condition of planning couldn't be that they be removed, and not replaced, at the end of their lifespan.

Giving communities the chance to make some money could go some way towards resolving the 'us' against 'them' feeling on the ground.

If nothing else, those living in areas suitable for turbines might get two decades of royalty payments in advance or better solutions to our energy crisis being developed.

Irish Independent

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