Sports clubs, active retired groups, local festivals and energy efficiency projects were among those who benefited from almost €2.5 million in community investment from Irish wind farms in 2018 according to a new report from the Irish Wind Energy Association.
The report, published at the organisation’s Autumn Conference in Athlone, puts a figure – for the first time – on the amount invested by wind farms in rural community benefit funds every year.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton T.D. said: “Harnessing the power of wind can break our damaging dependence on fossil fuels. A key part of the Climate Action Plan is a movement to 70% renewable energy by 2030. It is crucial that as we make this radical shift, that we work in partnership with local communities. Renewable energy projects are not only necessary to deliver on our climate ambitions, but can also be extremely beneficial to those living close by and it is important that local communities continue to be centrally involved as we scale up our activity.”
Dr David Connolly, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said: “Local communities deserve to benefit from the construction and operation of wind farms.
“Putting a figure on the amount of money invested in a given year shows the significant support green energy is giving to Ireland’s rural communities.
“Without this support, many fantastic local projects would struggle to find alternative funding and it is critical that communities see tangible benefits from renewables as part of the just transition away from fossil fuels.
“Wind energy is Ireland’s most valuable tool in the fight against climate change and already it is providing almost a third of our electricity each year. The more clean energy we can generate for our homes, farms, schools and businesses the less we rely on fossil fuels and the more we can invest in supporting communities.”
The report also identified the top five counties for wind energy community benefit funding. Cork leads the way with €391,500, followed by Galway on €383,500, Limerick on €359,000, Donegal on €231,200 and Tipperary on €216,700.
Energy efficiency in Galway
Galway Wind Park, managed by SSE Renewables in conjunction with their partners Greencoat Renewables, runs an energy efficiency fund for residents living close to the wind farm.
Barbara Allen was one of the homeowners who availed of an energy efficiency fund to make her home greener and warmer.
“I am very happy with the works done to my home and now that it’s done, I wish I had it a long time ago,” said Barbara Allen. “My only complaint now is my home is sometimes too warm!”
Forty-seven local homes received various energy efficiency measures through the fund such as insulation, Solar PV panels, replacement of doors and windows and climate controls.
Supporting Heroes in Cork
Powerchair football is a competitive team sport for people with disabilities. ‘Heroes’ is the only powerchair football club in Cork and players train weekly with volunteer coaches.
“The difference the wind farm grant has made to our club was immense,” said Gráinne Lynch from Heroes.
“It gave us the funds to purchase a new sports chair for one of our players. This allowed him to join a training camp in the UK that otherwise would not have been suitable and the grant has allowed us to play four players in the AIPF League matches with chairs of equal ability.”
Heroes Powerchair Football Club is supported by ESB’s Castlepook Wind Farm in Co Cork.
Figure to rise
The level of community benefit funding is expected to rise in coming years as new wind farms connect to the system and with the introduction of a new mandatory community benefit requirement under the Government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).
Projects seeking support under RESS will be required to contribute €2 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity produced, which could be up to three or four times the current industry standard.
Dr Connolly continued: “Under the RESS there will be a significant increase in the amount of funding going into Ireland’s rural communities from the next generation of wind and solar projects.
“We are constantly amazed at the dedication, the imagination and the commitment we find among community groups working in rural Ireland.
“We are proud that Ireland’s wind industry is playing our part in enabling them to continue to achieve the impossible and we can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in the years to come.”