CLARE COUNTY Council has given the go-ahead for construction of the largest community-owned wind farm development in Ireland.
However, the project must now wait for a grid offer from the national grid, which could take several years.
The €200 million project will see West Clare Renewable Energy build 28 wind turbines on a slope at Mount Callan between Ennis and Miltown Malbay. The original application sought permission to erect 31 turbines.
The initiative will generate enough power to cover every home and business in Co Clare. Construction of the project will generate up to 300 jobs.
The wind farm will be located on 3,000 acres owned by 30 farm families, who have a majority stake in the company, which also includes planning and energy experts.
The project, which will cut carbon emissions by 4.4 million tonnes of carbon over its lifetime, will also meet the Limerick Clare Energy Agency’s 2010 targets for emissions reductions and renewable energy production.
“Mount Callan offered the perfect combination of wind resource, transmission lines and available land for wind farms,” said the company’s chairman Padraig Howard.
The project is said to be the largest of its kind in Clare since the development of the Ardnacrusha power station.
Mr Howard said the landowners have also invested financially in the company, and it is hoped that local investors would come on board to fund the project when construction begins.
He said this could begin next year if an offer from the national grid to connect to it was forthcoming. The site is less than a kilometre from the national grid.
“Unlike other areas, there is no new transmission lines to be built to service this wind farm; it’s already in existence, but we still can’t connect to it. That’s really the only stumbling block at the moment.
“We’ve been calling on them to take on projects that have planning permission secured, that are close to existing grid infrastructure so there isn’t a major capital investment to connect them, and that have a strong community focus; we have all three of those.”
The project could be subject to an appeal. Not everyone in the local area was behind the wind farm, with a number of objections lodged to the application. Some of these dealt with the proximity of the turbines to homes.
Renewable energy could bring a significant jobs boost to the county, and fits in with the Government’s predictions that up to 80,000 jobs could be created by the “green economy” by 2020.
Members of the local community would be offered preference for the jobs in both construction and at the wind farm once it was operational, the company said.
Landowner John Talty said there was a sense of optimism about the wind farm. “We would like to build on this decision to attract spin-off investment into towns such as Miltown Malbay, Ennistymon, Kilrush and Ennis.
“The greening and decarbonisation of Co Clare’s economy is crucially important for sustainable economic recovery. The jobs boost is desperately needed, with over 10,000 people on the Live Register in Clare and emigration once again becoming a preferred option of the youth of Co Clare.”