Saturday 18 January 2020

Swimmers to end up in hot water in council wind plan

(Stock picture)
(Stock picture)

Caroline O'Doherty

Swimmers could enjoy a tropical temperature boost in public pools under proposals to use surplus wind energy to provide warm water.

County councils in the north-west are working on a feasibility study to investigate a link-up with the ESB to offer their pools as 'energy sinks' when the utility has surplus power on its hands.

"This is just the start," said Ciarán Hayes, chief executive of Sligo County Council.

"There's no reason why every public pool in the country couldn't be part of a national joint venture."

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There would be an element of surprise for swimmers as the temperature would return to normal when the surplus power was used up on any given day.

Ultimately, battery storage solutions are expected to resolve the issue of how to hold on to surplus energy for use at times when demand peaks or supply dips.

But Mr Hayes said the proposal also involved the ESB helping to give pools an energy-­efficiency refit to minimise power needs in future.

"Most swimming pool buildings are well suited to solar panels so that's something we're looking at too," he said.

The initiative is one of dozens that city and county councils are working on as part of their statutory climate action responsibilities.

They are examining a project in Dundee, Scotland, that uses the soil deep beneath public parkland to provide geothermal heat not only for the sports facilities located above, but for district heating for neighbouring areas.

The ESB is partnering with the local authority in Dundee on this project.

A link-up with the GAA to be formally announced next week in which local authorities will join forces with clubs to drive home the need for climate action and lead by example in their own facilities.

"GAA clubs have clubhouses, bars, training facilities with floodlights while we have expertise and we know about the various grants that are available," Mr Hayes said.

"If we can help them with the grant applications and get them to upgrade their facilities to be energy-efficient, that becomes a talking point. It helps embed this kind of thinking in the community."

Training grounds could also provide charging points for electric cars. Currently, there are just 260 charging points on public land around the country and the national plan is targeting only 1,000 more over the next five years.

"The target is 200 per annum within the local authority sector so we will have to look at other ways and get creative as to how we provide more," Mr Hayes said.

He was speaking at the publication of a Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) report that highlights 44 examples of projects already completed or under way in the country's 31 city and county councils to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions, deal with extreme weather and protect nature.

Dr Bernie O'Donoghue Hynes, head of research at the LGMA, said the report allowed local authorities to learn from each other and to recognise where additional action might be taken.

"The research shows local authorities have been taking a proactive approach to climate and environmental sustainability for some time," she said.

"The research shows what has been done and serves as an important reference for local authorities to examine what can be done."

Irish Independent

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