AN engineering consortium is to build two power stations in Co Offaly in a €350m plan backed by the taoiseach's younger brother, Barry Cowen.
Lumcloon Energy plans to start construction work on the stations, which will be located on the site of the former ESB power station at Ferbane, Co Offaly, next year. It is understood that global engineering giants including Alstom, General Electric, Mitsubishi and Mitsui have already expressed an interest in building and financing the stations. The two gas-fired plants will produce a combined total of 350 megawatts of power. One of the plants will be a 'peaking' station designed to cover wind power shortfalls.
The companies behind Lumcloon, R&R Mechanical and Terotech International, are engineering concerns that have previously worked on projects such as Huntstown power station in Dublin and Tynagh power station in Galway.
According to Nigel Reams, managing director of Tullamore-based R&R Mechanical, his company decided to build its own power stations to showcase its R&D work. He said, however, that the operation of both facilities would be outsourced.
Unlike other current power plant developers, Lumcloon has no intention of supplying electricity to customers. It will sell its output to other suppliers through the all-island Single Electricity Market.
Reams said Lumcloon hoped to start construction work on the project next year and that it should be completed in 2011, subject to regulatory hurdles.
"We have permission for the 100 megawatt peaking plant already but we have yet to secure permission for the larger 250 megawatt plant," he said. "We also have to complete discussions with Eirgrid about securing a connection."
It is expected, however, that Lumcloon should encounter little difficulty in securing planning permission for the second plant as Offaly County Council has signalled its approval in principle to the proposal, which will provide at least 500 jobs during construction.
According to Lumcloon, Barry Cowen has played a key role in securing all-party support for the project.