ENNISTYMON farmer Liam Shannon first came up with the idea of establishing a community-based wind farm in 1995 when he started working for Vestas, one of the leading suppliers and manufacturers of large-scale wind turbines.
The drystock farmer subsequently translated his idea into a concrete plan which secured a runner-up place in the Clare Farm Ideas Awards.
Liam, who also has an off-farm job maintaining wind turbines, witnessed at first hand that people in the local community generally miss out on the direct benefits of wind energy. His idea is simply to help communities set up and run their own community-based wind farms. He will co-ordinate all aspects of developing and financing the enterprise in exchange for a fair management fee.
Liam estimates that a typical 4mw wind farm could be established for €4m and the payback would be six to eight years on a suitable site. With a lifetime of 20 years and capital expenditure shared among the community investors, Liam believes that this type of development will put real income back into the locality.
The amazing part is the numbers, as he envisages that upwards of 1,000 people could be involved as shareholders, and with green finance of 75pc all that would be required is an investment of €1,000 per shareholder to get the project off the ground.
Liam has seen this type of community-based model work in both Denmark and in the UK, and firmly believes Ireland could now catch up. The Westmill Wind Farm Co-op in Swindon has 2,374 members (see www.westmill.coop). He also believes that with local communities getting behind this type of development, there would be less opposition by both councils and locals.