The song may go ‘It’s a long, long way to Tipperary …’ but community residents in one part of the county would not appear to be far off the mark in terms of taking things into their own hands when it comes to wind energy. That’s because a group of people, ranging from students, farmers and even a local priest, have come together to pioneer Ireland’s first community-owned wind farm in Templederry, Co Tipperary.
Ireland’s Energy Minister, Pat Rabbitte, TD, was Templederry this morning to officially open the wind farm.
The group behind the wind farm is now producing ‘cleaner’ electricity and selling it to the electrical grid.
The wind farm has the capacity to produce about 15GWh (gigawatt-hours) per year. In layman’s terms, this would be enough to power 3,500 houses or the equivalent of the local town of Nenagh, near where the wind farm is based.
Rabbitte said he commended the local community in Templederry for its initiative to drive on 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," he said.
As well as this, Rabbitte said the project showed the scope for local communities to "harness" their own local resources.
He said this would be for their own benefit, as well as contributing to 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," explained Rabbitte.
Rabbitte also spoke about how Tipperary Energy Agency and Tipperary LEADER have been actively supporting this initiative.
A feasibility study on the potential for such a wind farm took place as far back as 1999.
Revamping the wind-energy guidelines: taking everyone’s views on board
Rabbitte also said the Government, under the auspices of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Department of Energy and the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, is involved in a separate process 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," said Rabbitte.
Areas that will up for debate will be noise pollution, separation distance between wind turbines and homes, and shadow flicker.
Apparently, these revised guidelines will be published for consultation in Q1 2014.
Rabbitte said the aim will then be to finalise the new guidelines by mid-2014.
The wind-exporting debacle
He also addressed the exporting of excess wind energy, as opposed to wind energy that is used for domestic consumption to power homes and businesses.
"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, he said, will be based on what Rabbitte dubbed a "strategic environmental assessment". Such an assessment is set to be "prepared over the coming year or so".
According to Rabbitte, it 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 exporting to the UK.
Finally, he said he believes the Templederry project is a "template" for the future.
"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."