Harvesting the Local Benefits of Wind Energy
The development of renewable energy is a natural step in the evolution of locally generated electricity. Harvesting peat for electricity has brought significant economic gain for many areas of the Midlands over the years. Ireland is now on a path of decarbonisation and the energy that we are using is switching from fossil fuels to renewables. The potential to extract local economic and societal gains remains with the development of renewable energy projects. All renewable projects that are developed over the coming years will attract a significant community benefit fund for the local area which will often equate to multi million-euro investment opportunities for local communities.
Local people know the local needs best
In all communities, it is the local people who know the area best. It is you, the people who live here that know the strengths, weaknesses, desires and aspirations of the area. In some areas, there is a preference for support for projects which work with the youth however, in others it may be services for the elderly that require support. Local rural issues such as security or commuting may be relevant in some areas but not in others.
The fundamental principle of our community benefits package is that we seek to work with local people to deliver increased environmental, economic and social sustainability to local communities. We would be very interested in hearing what ideas you have on how this wind farm could deliver the most benefit to you and your local area.
Through working with the local community, we aim to ensure that the community benefit fund delivers the maximum possible benefit and that it delivers for you. This fund will support the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the local area.
The new Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS)
On Thursday 27th February 2020, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, (DCCAE) Richard Bruton, T.D. published the Terms and Conditions for the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction. The DCCAE stated that the Climate Action Plan is the Government’s plan to give Irish people a cleaner, safer and more sustainable future. A key part of the Plan is a move to 70% renewable electricity by 2030. Should the Coole Wind Farm secure RESS support, it is expected that this scheme will deliver:
- A very significant increase in community funds. For this proposal it would mean that there would be in the region of €300,000/year available for the local community for the duration of the scheme.
- The DCCAE have stated that they are committed to working towards the inclusion of a community investment opportunity for future RESS auctions.
What can the fund be used for?
We are keenly aware that money on its own means nothing. What money does bring is potential, and in order to maximise this potential what is needed is critical assessment and vision.
As part of our consultation process, we would like to challenge everyone to consider the needs of the local area and local people. Some of the questions that may warrant thought are:
We would like you to tell us how you think that this fund should be used!
Coole Wind Farm Community Benefit Fund
The significant community funds that would be associated with this proposal could be used to support a wide variety of initiatives. The development of renewable energy is a very positive move for society in general given the role that it plays in effective climate action, but we believe that it is important to go further than this and to deliver the positive benefits of renewable energy to local communities.
Below we have outlined some initiatives that could be considered as part of this proposal. We would welcome, not only your feedback on these but also any other ideas that you may have.
What initiatives have other areas considered?
Direct return – In many areas, it is felt that those living closest to the wind farm should receive a direct return from it. This is based on the principle that locally generated electricity should directly benefit those living in the local area. This is a concept that we support and one that we have worked with other communities on.
Greener Living Initiatives – Government has accepted that it will not be able to carry the cost of transitioning our society and way of living towards low carbon solutions. This means that whether through carbon taxes or the costs associated with upgrading our homes and cars, there will be implications for us all. That said, despite initial costs, making the change to low carbon solutions will lower your bills. This initiative is aimed at providing financial support for people to adopt low carbon solutions, reduce their bills and reduce their carbon footprints.
Support for local community groups – The community benefit fund can be used to develop local groups that serve the needs of the local area. These would include local youth groups, services for the elderly, sporting organisations, schools etc.
Local educational fund – For some, the cost of access to further education, be that for themselves or their children, can be prohibitive. Part of the community benefit fund can be used towards assisting local people with these costs.
If you are interested in any of the above, please let us know. These are only some initial ideas on how the community benefit fund could be leveraged to provide long term, lasting benefits for the local area but we would be very interested to hear from you as to what you might think would work in your local area.
Achieving great things is not the exclusive domain of others – Great things can be achieved when we all work together towards a common goal.
Local Business Support Scheme
As a part of our commitment to maximise the economic gain for the surrounding area, we have a developed a Local Business Database. The purpose of this is to ensure that all opportunities for local businesses to secure contracts are captured. All local suppliers, contractors and business on this database will be informed of opportunities and facilitated in applications ensuring that they are considered for all appropriate opportunities. These include:
- Road building: machine drivers, quarries, lorry drivers and ground workers
- Grounds maintenance, fencing materials & fencing contractors
- Engineering, steel fixing, surveying, formwork and shuttering
- Electrical supplies and electrical contracting
- Fuel supply, traffic and transport engineering supplies
- Plant and machinery repair and hire, tyres and servicing
- Supply of materials and goods
- Provision of lodging and travel
If you have a business that you think could benefit from this project please make sure to contact us.
Environmental and Economic Sustainability Scheme
This scheme will be developed through consultation with the local community and will incorporate aspects of the community benefit fund mentioned above along with other initiatives that might stem from the local community. These may include:
[For those closest to the wind farm]
- The development of low carbon initiative in the local area
- The potential development of local employment initiatives
- Direct return for those living closest to the wind farm
- A Greener Living Scheme
Rates to the local authority – Significant annual rate payments will be paid to Westmeath County Council
Local road improvements – Roads which would be used during the construction of the project would be upgraded
Rates to the County Council
- Annual council rates in excess of €300,000 for Westmeath County Council.
- Rates are paid to the County Council by the wind farm developer. These are typically used for the provision of public services such as road upkeep, fire services, environmental protection, street lighting, footpath maintenance etc. along with other community and cultural support initiatives.
- These rates would be paid annually to the Local Authority over the lifespan of the project.
Rental payments to landowners
- Rental payments will be made to the landowners involved in the project
Savings for Ireland
- Help towards reducing the amount of oil and gas being imported
- Ireland will incur fines estimated of €140 – €150,000,000 per annum for every 1% of shortfall below our 2020 targets. This could range from anywhere from 1% to 4% equating to €140,000,000 to €600,000,000 in fines annually.
We would like your feedback on how this project could bring the most benefit to the local area!