There is scope for up to 1,000 wind turbines to be constructed in the midlands, a senior executive with Bord na Móna told an Oireachtas committee yesterday. John Reilly said the wind speeds that were available in the midlands were the envy of other European countries and gave Ireland a major competitive advantage.
The maximum number of turbines likely to be built was about 1,000, he said, adding that figures of up to 3,000 that had been mentioned were due to misunderstandings.
Mr Reilly was speaking to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Transport, Culture and the Gaeltacht.
Tim Cowhig, managing director of Element Power, which is involved in a wind energy project with Bord na Móna in the midlands, said 185m turbines were currently the most efficient, though that did not mean they would be the ones used.
The project envisages developing 40 wind farms on 20,000 hectares of land in the midlands, with a view to exporting the energy to the UK via links to north and south Wales.
All of the cabling linking the turbines to the connectors with Wales would be underground, the committee was told.
“We have an opportunity to create a new export industry like our beef and dairy export businesses, creating thousands of jobs,” Mr Cowhig told the committee. The development would have a “transformative effect” on the midlands.
The project would involved a 25-year, €250 million community benefit programme if it went ahead, Mr Cowhig said.
Mr Reilly said they were looking at people living near the turbines getting educational bursaries, assistance with making their homes more energy efficient, and perhaps support for their electricity bills.
Community groups might also receive assistance with capital projects and other issues. He said he believed local communities should look at investing in local wind projects.
Mr Cowhig said the project, if it went ahead, would contribute up to 50 per cent of the rates income currently received by the local authorities in Offaly, Westmeath and Laois.
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