A wind energy development co-operative in County Clare has received planning permission from Clare County Council to construct the largest community owned wind farm development in Ireland.
West Clare Renewable Energy Ltd. (WCRE) plans to construct 28 3MW wind turbines on the western slopes of Mount Callan, a 391-metre high mountain located between Ennis and Miltown Malbay.
The company says the EUR200 million project will be capable of generating enough electricity to power every home and business in County Clare, as well as meeting the Limerick Clare Energy Agency’s 2010 targets for emissions reductions and renewable energy production. .The Scheme is predicted to reduce carbon emissions over its life time by a massive 4,400,000 tonnes of carbon. The community-based scheme is also expected to provide up to 300 jobs during the construction phase.
Commenting on receiving planning approval for the project, WCRE chairman and Clare-based entrepreneur Padraig Howard said he was delighted and relieved on behalf of the company and the thirty farm families who have “invested heavily in this iconic renewable energy project for Clare, the largest of its kind in the County since the development of the Ardnacrusha Hydroelectric Power Station”.
Mr. Howard, who is a Founding member of the Spirit of Ireland Initiative, pointed out that Clare is also the only county on the Western seaboard of Ireland with the existing electricity grid Infrastructure to accommodate the additional renewable energy power. “Mount Callan offered the perfect combination of wind resource, transmission lines and available land for wind farms”, he added. “Mount Callan has long been associated with energy production and for decades supplied peat to power stations in the region. In more recent times large scale commercial forestry had become the energy crop of choice on the mountain” he continued.
Mr. Howard noted that there is 80,000 new jobs to be created in the green economy by 2020 according to Government figures. He added that Clare has easily the potential to create 10,000 thousand of these jobs by 2020.
“We need to harness our renewable resources and re-invent our economy or we risk been left behind in this area. We have significant advantages over other counties in that we have the strongest and most robust electricity grid infrastructure in the country yet we haven’t to date made much progress in taking advantage of the grid system that we have. Other counties such as Kerry, Cork and Donegal are racing ahead and Clare has significant ground to make up if we are to at least maintain our currently position as an energy producer for the region and the country”, he concluded.
WCRE is comprised of renewable energy firm West Clare Renewables and 30 farm families who collectively own 3,000 acres of primarily upland properties on Mount Callan. The landowners have a majority shareholding in the company and have also included a significant community fund aspect to the project.
Local landowner John Talty stated the wind farm project will ensure the economic sustainability of the local community and wider economy for the next thirty years at least.
“We are excited and optimistic for the future and the added benefits that this project can bring to the local economy. We would like to build on this decision to attract spin off investment into towns such as Miltown Malbay, Ennistymon , Kilrush and Ennis. The greening and decarbonisation of County Clare’s economy is crucially important for sustainable economic recovery. The jobs boost is desperately needed with over 10,000 people on the live register in Clare and emigration once again becoming a preferred option of the youth of County Clare.”
Mr. Talty said that members of the local community will be afforded first preference regarding construction work and fulltime employment once the wind farm was up and running.
Fellow Mount Callan landowner Fred Tottenham, whose family have farmed on Mount Callan since the 1830’s, commented: “In the 1960’s my father, Robert, started to plant trees on the Mountain after he realised that West Clare had some of the best soil for forestry in Ireland. He was always interested in harnessing the wind to produce energy and we are delighted that Mount Callan will soon offer a new source of income to the local community. This is a real and viable way to address rural depopulation and sustain the livelihoods of current and future generations residents in the area”.
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