Greenwire wind project could provide up to 40pc of Westmeath’s rates for next 25 years

The company behind the €8bn Greenwire project to export wind energy to the UK has predicted the rate return from the project for Westmeath alone would be €4m per annum - or 40 per cent of the county’s annual rate take.

Also, the project got another boost this week with a statement from the IFA which supports a landowner’s right to be approached by wind energy companies.

“In 2012, Westmeath County Council collected just over €10million in rates. Our project has the potential to contribute approximately €4million per annum to the local authority for the 25-year lifespan of the project. That’s a guaranteed income for a quarter of a century which amounts to around 40 per cent of the entire revenue which the council was able to collect last year,” said Tim Cowhig, the CEO of Element Power.

The Greenwire project, which is to be spread across five Midland counties, will see 150 of the 180m high turbines sited in Westmeath, with each occupying a footprint of 0.4Ha (1 acre ), with the rateable value for a one-acre industrial site in the region of €26,000 a year.

It cost the taxpayer €61.1m to run County Westmeath in 2013, down from an all-time high of €74.7m in 2007.

In 2012 the deficit between expenditure and income was a manageable 2.8 per cent, or €1.8m.

In its annual report for 2012, Westmeath County Council stated that it was “another difficult year” and went on to say that global recession has driven down “economic growth and has had a severe impact on our ability to both earn and collect income”.

“This can be a serious long-term source of income for the council as well as local communities and landowners. It is important to re-emphasise that people have nothing to fear from wind energy; there are presently 1,300 onshore turbines operational in Ireland with more than 225,000 machines located in 79 countries across the globe, yet there is no evidence of any significant negative impact which can be directly attributed to an adjacent wind turbine,” said Mr Cowhig.

Also, in a statement this week, Jer Bergin, the chairman of the IFA’s wind energy project team wished to clarify some “misrepresentations” that had been recently disseminated by members of his organisation.

He explained how the IFA’s position on wind energy had been set down in policy documents since 2009, and that: “renewable energy is now part of our daily lives ... and projects under consideration have the potential to provide an alternative revenue stream for farmers and rural communities”.

He continued: “Landowners are entitled to be supported when they are approacched by wind energy companies and the IFA will ensure this happens”.

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