The green light has been given for the development of a €150 million wind farm in Clare – the largest in Ireland.
The construction phase will create 200 jobs and the facility will employ 100 people when it is operational.
Work will begin on the 87 megawatt wind farm, which consists of 29 turbines, early next year.
It will be located in west Clare, around six kilometres from Miltown Malbay.
The project is being driven by Cork developer, John Cleary, who also owns the City Quarter development in Mahon.
Thirty local farmers, however, will have a majority shareholding in West Clare Renewable Energy, the company developing the wind farm.
Chairman of the group of local farmers, Padraig Howard, said that giving the families the majority shareholding in the company will have a “transformational effect” on rural Ireland.
Each family will receive €30,000 a year when the project becomes operational.
The wind farm will be just 1km from the national grid connection.
It is expected to generate enough energy to power all the homes and businesses in Clare.
“Farm families are struggling and food prices are not what they were 20 years ago and farmers depend on subsidies and direct farm payments. This project will provide farmers with a new source of income and allow farm families to remain on the land,” said Mr Howard.
Although there was some opposition to the development, Mr Cleary said that 99% of local people support the project.
The company is also in discussions with some European venture capital firms regarding investing.
“We are in detailed discussion with a number of European-based private equity funds, who have expressed a keen interest in becoming involved in the financing of the project, which is indeed a great endorsement in the current difficult economic environment,” said Mr Cleary.
The project has been in development for the last three years and Mr Cleary said that they have been very impressed with the consistently high wind speeds recorded at the site over that time.
“Also, the recent agreement between the British and Irish governments, whereby the British have committed to purchase ren- ewable energy generated in Ireland, will dramatically increase the market for the energy produced and reinforces the long-term sustainability of the project,” said Mr Cleary.
The project is expected to deliver a community fund for the four parishes in the area that will amount to between €60,000 to €80,000 in the early phase of the project and a multiple of that figure after 10 years when the debt is paid down on the scheme.