Westmeath’s good causes could net up to €50m over wind project’s lifetime

Element Power, the firm behind the Greenwire wind energy export project has outlined details of its community benefit programme which could see Westmeath clubs and groups benefit by up to €50m over its projected 30-year lifespan in addition to a similar figure in rent and rates to landowners.

The firm, which plans to build around 600 wind turbines across five counties in the Midlands to export the electricity to the UK, has met with a selection of voluntary community groups across the five counties where the Greenwire project is proposed as part of a series of public information days in addition to a consultation programme which has been underway for approximately one year now.

“This community benefit programme is in addition to the very substantial fees which Greenwire proposes to pay local authorities and landowners over the lifetime of the project. This sum of €1.5billion, would equate to 50 per cent of the current annual income of the five local authorities. Donegal County Council is presently yielding that percentage of its annual rate income from wind energy. It is regrettable that those opposed to wind energy have chosen to dismiss, even ridicule, the employment and other economic benefits which Greenwire can bring at a time when such a catalyst for recovery was never more needed,” said CEO of Element Power Ireland, Tim Cowhig, referring to last Saturday’s protest march in Mullingar.

“We can deliver 10,000 construction jobs with the potential for 3,000 sustainable medium-term jobs.” he added.

If granted planning permission for Greenwire, Element Power intends to establish its community benefit programme to benefit the wider community where the windfarms are located.

It would be established prior to construction, and would operate for the duration of the windfarms’ commercial lifetime.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA ) recommends developers establish a community fund of €1,000 per megawatt which would see Greenwire contribute an absolute minimum of €3million per annum or €90million over the lifetime of the project.

There would also be three additional funds related to education opportunities, energy projects, and local enterprise.

The educational fund would help finance educational initiatives for students in communities where windfarms are located; the near neighbour fund would finance practical energy projects for individual households adjacent to the windfarms, while the local enterprise fund would foster local enterprise and employment creation through the support of small local business.

The company intends to direct a total of €250million into the Midlands by way of its community benefit programme over the lifetime of Greenwire.

Westmeath can expect an estimated 100 turbines on private land as part of the €8 billion project to export 3,000 megawatts of electricity to the UK by 2018, with another 20 to be sited in the county’s forests, as part of the deal signed with Coillte recently.

The project will require 40 clusters of turbines across the five Midland counties with an average of 15 turbines per cluster.

The Coillte deal will account for the siting of one sixth of the turbines required, and that their preferred turbine design was 185 metres (607 feet ) high.

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