Element Power, one of the three companies planning major windfarms in the Midlands, has said it will invest €250million of community funding into the region over 25 years.
Speaking at Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Tim Cowhig, CEO of Element Power, said the company planned to invest €250million into the Midlands through community benefit for a 3GW project.
Element Power Ireland is planning to build up to 40 wind farms in the midlands and export all the power generated to the UK, which is facing an energy crisis over the coming years. It is expected to locate 150 wind turbines in each of five counties, including Offaly and Westmeath.
“This Community Benefit Programme would be established prior to construction and would operate for the duration of the wind farms’ commercial lifetime. We have met with numerous voluntary community groups, development associations, local enterprise bodies and sporting clubs and societies across the five counties where the Greenwire project is proposed,” he said.
The Community Benefit Programme would consist of a near neighbour fund for those living closest to turbines, a local community fund, an educational fund and an enterprise fund.
The Near Neighbour Fund would include the financing of practical energy projects for individual households within one kilometre of a turbine.
There will also be a Local Community Fund which would distribute finance annually to deserving projects within the communities where the wind farms are located.
The Educational Fund would help finance educational initiatives for students in communities where wind farms are located. And the Local Enterprise Fund would foster local enterprise and employment creation through the support of small local businesses.
“This €10million per year community benefit scheme added to €50million in rates and rent each year would see Element Power contribute a minimum total of €1.5billion to the local economy over the 25-year life-time of Greenwire,” he said.
“The payment to local authorities in Offaly, Westmeath and Laois would amount to between 40% and 50% of the entire rates income which those counties presently enjoy. That’s a lot of additional services or it could also be used to create a reduction on the rates burden on hard pressed businesses by up to 50%.
“In terms of the employment potential, the construction works required for up to 3,000 MWs of wind power as well as installing an electrical network underground can create approximately 10,000 construction jobs. The only way this project will be delivered is with locally sourced employees. It is normal procedure in Ireland that all balance of plant is sourced locally.”