August 7, 2012

No Kildare sites yet for wind energy project

Henry Bauress | Leinster Leader | 7 August 2012

Kildare could play a part in an ambitious windpower energy plan but the company involved would not say this week how many of the county’s landowners it had spoken to, writes Henry Bauress.

A US backed private equity company, Element Power, proposes to build around forty windfarms in the midlands following an agreement with National Grid UK, the operator of the UK electricity network. In a closed session briefing to councillors, it named Offaly, Kildare, Laois, Westmeath and Meath as the five inland counties.

What it is calling the Greenwire project, involves exporting energy to the UK via two independent subsea cables, starting in 2018.

Element said UK power market needs the renewable energy and the project would mean €1.2billion exports annually from the Ireland.

It predicts spending €8 billion during the construction phase, much of it infrastructure in Ireland, with up to 10,000 construction jobs and up to 3,000 long term jobs.

It predicts annual rental payments to local landowners and rates to the local authorities will amount to €50m apart from other busines spin offs.

Cork based Element Power’s Irish operation, set up in 2008, is linked to US based Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a global private equity firm.

Element said it was seeking to have the project get planning permission from Bord Pleanala via the Strategic Infrastructural Development Act 2006.

It proposed no overhead power lines instead using the latest high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology.

The cables will be laid in the verge of public roads on shore, in a similar manner to other services such as water, phone, or gas pipes. Offshore, the cable will be installed by specialised ships under the seabed of the Irish Sea.

Recently representatives from Eirgrid said a complete HVDC underground method would be too costly for it. Cllr. John McGinley, a former director of the ESB, told the Leader he favours wind power but questioned the cost and why it would not just locate the farms in the UK.

Councillors were told, he said, it was not linking to the Irish grid now because of the time involved to do so.

The company did not say where, if anywhere, in Kildare they would locate windfarms. The south or west of the county has been suggested.

Asked by the Leader later, Element spokesperson, Sean Perry, said “Element Power has spoken to hundreds of landowners in the five midland counties.

The geographical divide has in the main, been equal. In terms of specific locations, we won’t be in a position to give these until the end of the year at the very earliest but County Development Plans and DCENR (Department of Environment) guidelines will set out where wind farm developments are permitted.”

Concluding, Mr. Perry said: “Obviously the final site selection or site option decisions will only be confirmed once the potential sites have been fully assessed and proven fit for purpose by strenuous engineering and environmental studies and investigations which will be taking place over the coming year.”

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