Figures firm up as Westmeath wind project progresses

Westmeath can expect an estimated 100 turbines on private land as part of Element Power’s ongoing €8 billion Greenwire wind energy project to export 3,000 megawatts of electricity to the UK by 2018, it was revealed this week.

Up to another 20 will be sited in the county’s forests, as part of the deal signed with Coillte recently.

This week Element Power announced it would require 40 clusters of turbines across the five Midland counties included in the plan to provide 3,000Mw of exportable power for the UK, with “an average of 15 turbines per cluster”, according to their spokesman, Sean Perry.

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

“We hope to have all options signed [with landowners] within the first quarter [of 2013],” revealed Mr Perry, who also confirmed environmental impact studies are underway since October, and that Element Power hope to be making a formal planning application by the end of the year.

The €8bn project is expected to generate a €1.2bn industry, including an estimated €50 million in rent and rates for landowners in the five counties of Westmeath, Meath, Offaly, Kildare, and Laois.

The firm estimate about 10,000 jobs will be created during the three-year construction phase, with the potential to create up to 3,000 long-term positions in servicing and maintaining the wind farms across the Midlands.

In 2011, the UK onshore wind sector supported more than 8,600 jobs through an installed capacity of approximately 5,300 megawatts contributing more than £500 million to the British economy. There could be around 11,600 direct and supply chain jobs by 2020 rising to around 15,500 total jobs if wider quantifiable impacts are taken into account.

Presently in Ireland, approximately 2,000 people work in the onshore wind industry sector servicing an installed capacity of over 2,000 megawatts.

A European Wind Energy Association (EWEA ) ‘Wind at Work’ study of 2009 concluded that around 15 jobs are maintained for every megawatt installed in the EU.

Most of these jobs are in the manufacturing and supply chains and whilst there is currently no fabrication of turbines in Ireland or the UK, the scale of the development pipelines in both jurisdictions will inevitably attract manufacturing capability.

Greenwire is the first and only wind export project in Ireland with firm grid connection approved and contracted to the UK National Grid.

Contracts to this effect were signed in the UK on July 16 with Element Power securing two connection points in Wales with a view to delivering 3,000 megawatts of wind energy from Ireland to the UK by 2018.

Arup have been appointed as the consultants to prepare the planning application for the Greenwire project, with environmental firm Fehily Timoney and Company, who are specialists in wind farm assessment, engaged to scope the environmental requirements of the wind farms. This consultancy work will also incorporate further public consultation in advance of making a planning application.

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