Following a motion by her at the July meeting of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michelle Mulherin has welcomed the commitment of the council to bring forward a working paper detailing challenges and difficulties for the development of renewable energy in Mayo as part of the creation of a Renewable Energy Strategy for the County.
Cllr Mulherin called on the council to lead the debate as to how this county can best develop the massive potential of renewable energy resources and in particular wind, forestry and wave energy in the county.
Cllr Mulherin said: “Green energy has come of age nationally and globally for both economic and environmental reasons. In Mayo we are blessed with an abundance of renewable energy resources. As a matter of urgency the obstacles which have prevented our development to date have to be tackled.
“For example we have the highest windspeeds not only in this country but in Europe. Yet to date we have only 27mw installed capacity. We are trailing behind Donegal which has 215mw installed capacity and Kerry with 160mws installed. Wind industry experts set a reasonable target at 2,000 megawatts installed capacity for County Mayo.”
According to Cllr Mulherin, aside from environmental, the economic benefits are manifold. “Every megawatt installed means €7,000 in rates to Mayo County Council and 2,000 mw installed would mean €14 million per annum to the council.
“Other benefits include jobs, a community fund, upgrade of local infrastructure, rent to local land owners and farmers and ultimately a reduction in electricity prices. There is also the possibility of community owned windfarms and micro generation from domestic/homehold turbines selling surplus energy to the national grid.
“We should also consider the possibility of free or reduced price electricity or some other benefit to households in the immediate vicinity of windfarms, recognising that people living in these areas are accommodating infrastructure that benefits us all.”
According to Cllr Mulherin Mayo has been passed over in terms of research and development, despite having the best potential for wave energy in Europe.
“To put the inadequacy of the grid in sharp focus, Bord na Mona has planning permission for the development in three phases of a 500mw windfarm at Bellacorrick. If this windfarm was to be built in the morning there is no capacity in the transmission lines to take the power,” explained Cllr Mulherin.
“Our challenge is to construct windfarms without impacting on the landscape and environment in a detrimental manner, taking into account sensitive landscapes and ecosystems such as NHAs, SACs, and housing in our county.”
Cllr Mulherin said the debate needs to be taken to every councillor in each of the electoral areas and to people in every corner of the county in an effort to identify suitable lands for the development of wind, biomass, and hydro energy.