Minister for Energy, Pat Rabbitte T.D., today officially opened Ireland’s first community owned wind farm in Templederry, Co. Tipperary. Templederry Community Wind Farm counts students, farmers and a local priest amongst its owners. The group is now producing green electricity and selling it to the grid, producing approximately 15GWh per annum. This is enough to power 3,500 houses or the equivalent of the local town of Nenagh.
Chairman of the Templederry group John Fogarty said “Local ownership of wind farms is vital to the regeneration of rural Ireland. Exporting our energy will enable local children to attend third level colleges, generate investment, support local businesses and secure the long term viability of our community”
This project was a long time in the making. A feasibility study was completed in 1999. With the help of Tipperary Energy Agency and LEADER funding, the community group purchased an anemometer to measure the wind speed. They hit many hurdles along the way which delayed the project from 2003 to 2011. These include grid moratoriums, expired planning applications and the financial crisis. In November 2012 the wind farm started producing electricity and is contributing to Ireland currently generating almost 20% of its electricity from wind.
Paul Kenny, CEO Tipperary Energy Agency and Green Leader of the Year said ‘Developing wind farms is a real challenge for any small organisation. Costly studies and consultants are often a barrier to communities and farmers. A new model like Templederry is needed. In Denmark and Germany most wind farms have an aspect of community ownership. Even if it is only 10% , it is still vital. The key challenge in Ireland is to engage communities in ownership or co-ownership of wind developments. People need to be aware that fossil fuels whether imported or otherwise bleed billions out of our economy every year and are slowly boiling our planet. We need a change and it should result in economic development in our rural communities, where it is needed”.
Paul Kenny, CEO Tipperary Energy Agency, Minister Pat Rabbitte and John Fogarty, Chairman templederry Community Windfarm.
In welcoming the community-led development Minister Rabbitte said, “I commend the local community here in Templederry for their initiative and resolve in successfully establishing Ireland’s first community-owned wind farm. Developed and owned by ordinary members of the local community this enterprise is already streaming benefits in the form of dividends into the local community. This project demonstrates the potential of local communities to harness their own local resources for their own benefit as well as contributing to important national goals – Ireland has signed up to demanding commitments at EU level and beyond as to the use of green energy in our overall energy mix. This development here in Templederry will assist us in reaching our green energy targets.”
The Minister went on to commend the Tipperary Energy Agency and Tipperary LEADER for their ongoing support of the initiative in its long road to fruition – a feasibility study took place as far back as 1999.
The Minister also drew a distinction between this type of initiative which produces electricity for domestic consumption and the separate question of developing renewable energy for export. He commented, “I recently announced that I am putting in place a clear national planning policy context for Renewable Energy Export. This will guide An Bord Pleanála when considering any proposals of a significant scale for wind energy export projects. The framework, which will be based on a Strategic Environmental Assessment, will be prepared over the coming year or so and will provide an opportunity for all stakeholders including local authorities, potential project developers and local communities to be consulted and have an input into the national policy for wind export.”
The Minister also noted that a separate process is in train, led by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Department of Energy and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, to review certain aspects of the existing Wind Energy Planning Guidelines. “This review is being undertaken in order to ensure that Ireland continues to meet its renewable energy targets, while at the same time ensuring that wind energy does not have negative impacts on local communities. It will examine the manner in which the Guidelines address key issues such as noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker. It is expected that revised guidelines will be published for consultation in Quarter 1 2014 with a view to the finalisation of the new guidelines by mid-2014,” he said.
The Minister concluded his visit to Templederry by reiterating the need for breadth and diversity in the Energy Sector. “While the debate continues over how best to tackle rising energy costs, insecurity of supply, and the obvious downsides of a carbon driven energy sector, it has become increasingly apparent that what is needed is a broad mix of both top-down and bottom-up initiatives. The Templederry project is, I believe, a template for the future and I fully expect to see many more of these community led projects, where local people seize the initiative in powering Ireland for the 21st Century.”