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Major wind energy project for Erris hinges on community consent

A wind-power company, which is in negotiations with north-west Mayo landowners to secure rights to build 400 wind turbines as part of a €5 billion renewable energy plan, is also offering the Erris community shareholdings in part of the project.
Mr Maurice McCarthy, the Chief Executive Officer of Organic Power, of Skibereen, Co Cork told The Mayo News that the company, Mayo Atlantic Renewable Energy Export, has consulted widely with the community, and local groups, over the last four years and has a project office in Belmullet which is open to the public.
“Most importantly, we have set up a subsidiary company to develop the wind element of which 10 percent of the equity is being offered to members of the community to invest in a €1,000 per share. The company is called Erris Community Wind, and we hope that as many members of the community as possible become shareholders in the company,” Mr McCarthy said.
He also confirmed that the company planned to establish and fund a renewable-energy technology institute in north Mayo.
Last month the company signed construction, connection and transmission agreements with the British National Grid, while it is in pre-application consultation with An Bord Pleanála.
Proposals for the project include a hilltop reservoir for the storage of excess wind energy and a transmission system capable of selling renewable capacity to Britain. Seawater would be pumped up to the reservoir with surplus wind energy released at other times to generate electricity.
The company also hopes to attract European renewable-energy manufacturers to the area to build turbine blades and towers, thus encouraging local support and possibly creating up to 2,000 jobs.
Harnessing the potential of both wind and wave energy along Mayo’s coastline has been recognised by many private companies, and some years ago the State’s ocean energy test-site was developed off Belmullet. Indeed, a Marine Institute study has identified that Mayo has the highest available wind resource in Britain and Ireland and the best wave-energy potential on the Atlantic seaboard.
Maurice McCarthy said the project would allow export of six terawatt hours of clean power to Britain, providing about 1.5 per cent of Britain’s electricity need for 2017-18.
However, the success of the project hinges on access to sufficient land for the 400 wind turbines.