€18m investment will see Westmeath’s first windfarm

The issue of wind-powered, electricity generation is back to the fore in the Midlands with the announcement this week that an Irish company has signed an €18m contract with a Chinese firm to develop three wind farms in Westmeath, Offaly, and Roscommon.

The three sites are at Crowenstown, near Delvin in east Westmeath; Leabeg, between Blue Ball and Ferbane in Offaly; and Skrine in Roscommon, between Athleague and Knockcrockery. They are expected to generate enough electricity to power over 11,000 houses.

This plan is unrelated to the Galetech proposal presently before the planners in Roscommon for 19 similarly-sized turbines in Taughmaconnell.

Last September Galetech’s contentious plan for 12, 135-metre turbines in Gaybrook, Mullingar was defeated by vehement local opposition.

The plan announced this week by Gaelectric Holdings is to erect just three turbines at each site.

The turbines will be 123.5m high, and will develop 4.5 megawatts of power each, figures that compare favourably with the failed Gaybrook proposal, where the 2.5MW turbines were planned to be 135m high.

Crucially, Gaelectric has already acquired planning permission for each of the three sites, but have not yet decided on a start date.

“There are no firm construction start dates at present. They will go out to tender during 2011 and 2012,” said Anna Magee, Gaelectric’s project manager.

This week Gaelectric Holdings signed the €18m deal with XEMC, a Dutch-based subsidiary of a Chinese electrical engineering firm.

This plan will see the first commercial deployment of XEMC wind turbines in Europe, and a letter of intent also signed by Gaelectric’s CEO, Brendan McGrath on Monday gives XEMC first refusal on construction of their grid connection pipeline. XEMC have 820 of these turbines in operation across China, and they are the largest turbine in mass production there.

XEMC, who employ 10,000 people and hold over 1,000 patents, took over the Dutch renewable energy firm Darwind in 2009, and are presently working on an experimental, 5MW offshore turbine there. Gaelectric Holdings is a Dublin-based firm which was started in Northern Ireland in 2004. It has six other such sites in Leitrim, Wicklow and Limerick.

In line with the Kyoto agreement, Ireland is committed to provide 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources in the next 10 years, up from only 8 per cent in 2005. The forecasted investment in this technology is expected to be in the region of €12 billion nationally over this timeframe.

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