A policy document that sets out guidelines for Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) members involved in wind-energy development has been published today. ‘Best Practice Principles in Community Engagement & Community Commitment’ aims to ensure local communities’ views are taken into account at all stages of a development and that local communities can share the benefits.
Ireland’s Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, TD, spoke about the guidelines at the IWEA’s annual conference, ‘Irish Wind Power – Our Competitive Advantage’, taking place in Dublin today.
“The imperatives of climate change and energy security necessitate the switch to renewable energy,” Rabbitte said.
“Ireland has abundant and excellent wind resources which will play a central part in our new electricity mix.”
Kenneth Matthews, CEO of the the IWEA, said it’s essential that local communities are engaged and consulted and IWEA’s best practice principles showcase how this can and should be done.
“The community and its support are an essential part of every wind development in Ireland and we’re confident this policy document outlines a responsible approach to ensuring continual long-term local support for such developments.”
Matthews added that widespread community engagement will have significant economic and environmental benefits, in additional to bringing local support for wind developments.
“Already, wind energy provided approximately €11.5m in local authority rates in 2012,” Matthews said.
Some examples of initiatives involving positive engagement and delivery of social and economic benefits for local communities from IWEA members include:
- The Bindoo, Gartnaneane & Mullananalt farms in Co Cavan and Co Monaghan have allowed Airtricity to award almost €600,000 to community groups in the areas surrounding the wind farms since 2006.
- Mountain Lodge Wind Farm in Co Cavan, an ESB and Galetech Energy Ltd development, has set up a community fund in the area which supports local groups and projects. The fund is for the benefit of the entire community near the wind farm and aims to support projects pertaining to recreation, education, health, environment/sustainability and culture.
“Effective and sensitive siting of wind farms will serve to increase the net benefits Ireland will experience in terms of jobs, investment and environmental conservation, while at all times keeping the community at the heart of it all,” Matthews added.