Grousemount windfarm for year-end completion

Development on Kerry-Cork border has met with local objections but is nearing completion

Conchubhar Ó Liathán

Ireland's largest windfarm is scheduled for completion on the Kerry-Cork border by the end of this year and promises to offset more than 308,000 tonnes of carbon emission annually once it's fully operational.

A spokesman for ESBi, the developers of the windfarm at Grousemount, which is adjacent to Ireland's highest pub, the Top of Coom, said there were four turbines already in place on the mountaintop site with plans for a further 34 to be up and generating power by year's end.

The Grousemount Windfarm developers last week issued a video revealing the massive scale of engineering to be undertaken at the site.

The most controversial phase of the development was completed earlier this year with the laying of 31 kilometres of underground cable to connect the windfarm with the national grid.

This phase faced objections by locals on both sides of the county bounds, with communities in Cúil Aodha and on the Kilgarvan side of the Top of Coom expressing discontent with the considerable disruption caused by the laying of the cable and site traffic over a three-year period.

The daytime traffic has abated by now, though the large parts for the turbines are being transported from Ringaskiddy in night-time convoys on an ongoing basis.

An ESBi spokesman said the turbines were being delivered at night to minimise disruption to the local community.

"The first turbine components arrived from early May," he said, thanking the people of Cúil Aodha for their cooperation.

"Turbine deliveries will continue through the summer, and we are continuing to keep local communities updated."

Approximately 26 kilometres of access tracks have been used to accommodate the huge vehicles involved in the transport of the turbine parts, and two rivers have been bridged: the Sulán near the Mills in Baile Mhúirne, as the old bridge there would not be able to manage the heavy goods vehicles involved; and the Roughty close to the Top of Coom.

A 110-kilowatt substation has been built at Cúm a'tSagairt and, at over 400 metres over sea level is the highest in Ireland.

The project was initially estimated to cost €180m, but lengthy delays have added considerably to the costs, with estimates now running to €250m or higher before the 120-megawatt wind farm project is completed.

While questions about the overall environmental value of the project remain - there is no estimate yet as to the carbon emissions generated by the actual construction project - ESBi believe the end result will be clean and green energy for west Cork and Kerry.

Local groups on both sides of the county bounds are also anticipating much-needed support for local projects from a €3.6m fund being established by ESBi.

Up to €180,000 will be distributed yearly for a total of 20 years for qualifying projects.