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Opportunities for Coastal Communities to Become "Project Shareholders" in Renewable Energy, Report Says

5th August 2020
Dr Deirdre Garvey, Chair of the Western Development Commission, Tomás-Ó-Síocháin CEO of the Western Development Commission, Dr-Helen McHenry, WDC and author of the report, Minister for rural development, Heather Humphreys Dr Deirdre Garvey, Chair of the Western Development Commission, Tomás-Ó-Síocháin CEO of the Western Development Commission, Dr-Helen McHenry, WDC and author of the report, Minister for rural development, Heather Humphreys

Renewable sources in the west are already generating more energy than the region needs, even before offshore energy sources are developed, a new report states.

Forecasts that connected renewable generation will “more than double” before 2030 mean there must be “active engagement” with communities on project locations, the report published by the Western Development Commission (WDC) says.

Rural communities must not only be consulted on future renewable energy projects, but schemes also offer” huge opportunities” for communities as “project shareholders”, the WDC report says.

The report on making a transition to a low carbon economy, which was published by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, recommends increasing remote working and use of “remote hubs” to reduce commuting as part of moves to a low carbon future.

A recent study by Eirwind calculated that Ireland has more offshore wind resource than energy demand and could be exporting bulk hydrogen.

The 30-year strategy by Eirwind, an industry-led consortium involving University College, Cork (UCC) researchers, has recommended setting up a joint forum between the fishing and offshore wind sectors.

It has said the fishing industry must be treated as a “primary stakeholder”.

The new Irish programme for government has raised a target of 3.5 gigawatt (GW) energy production from offshore wind to five GW by 2030, and specifies the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea for development.

The new government programme also signals that 30 GW of renewable energy could be derived from the Atlantic coast.

The Eirwind report describes floating offshore wind technology as a “game-changer,” and the period 2020 to 2030 as a “defining decade” for investing in green hydrogen and grid reinforcement.

The WDC report published today and written by Dr Helen McHenry makes a number of recommendations in relation to the transition to a low carbon economy in rural and coastal areas.

These recommendations include aligning the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles with rural enterprise hubs and broadband connection points.

Other key recommendations include use of “appropriate wood fuels” in the transition period, and retrofitting a “demonstration home” in each county to show the benefits of a switch away from fossil fuels.

The report says an increase in remote working should continue post-Covid-19, and use of rural enterprise hubs would encourage time spent in towns and villages.

“There are significant opportunities to make rural towns and villages the focus of social and economic activity through the use of enterprise hubs which can facilitate increased remote working,” WDC chief executive Tomás Ó Siocháin said.

He also identified the opportunities for communities to “benefit as shareholders in renewable energy projects and more broadly to re-imagine travel and mobility across the region”.

The report’s calculation that the west already has 120 per cent of electricity needs generated from renewable sources is based on a 31.5% capacity factor for renewable energy and a demand factor of 65% of maximum demand, Dr McHenry explained

There are 1,699 megawatts (MW )installed renewable capacity, while peak demand in the region is 680MW, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea
Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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