€120m Mountlucas wind farm to create 30 new jobs

A €120m Bord na Mona wind farm for Mountlucas, which has been given the green light by Offaly County Council, is expected to create 30 new jobs.

The proposed development, to be known as Mountlucas Wind Farm, will have a generating capacity of 80 MW and will comprise of 32 wind turbines, access trackways, crane hard-standings, underground cables between the turbines and a 110 kV electricity substation.

When operational it will improve the geographical distribution of wind energy facilities nationally and hence contribute to more balanced input of wind energy to the grid in support of the Government’s 40% target for electricity from renewable energy sources. This will help to ensure that, by 2020, 40% of electricity generated in the state will come from renewable sources.

An application for connection of the wind farm to the national grid has been made to EirGrid. It is included in the Gate 3 list of projects to be processed for connection and it is scheduled to get an offer for connection to the system in early 2011.

It is expected that the construction of the new wind farm will take place over an 18 to 24 months period and will involve an investment of approximately €120m, with up to 30 workers employed on the project at peak. Once in operation the farm will support a small number of operation and maintenance jobs.

When operational, the farm will generate enough electricity to supply the needs of approximately 45,000 homes with green electricity and it will prevent the emission every year of 125,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases. In doing so, it will help to combat climate change and contribute to the country achieving its greenhouse gas emission reduction targets as well as contributing to the achievement of the EU’s mandatory renewable energy target set for Ireland.

The company has been involved in milled peat production operations at the site since the 1950s and peripheral parts of the bog are still in active peat production. Those areas of the site that are still in active peat production will not be affected by the development of the wind farm, and peat production will continue as normal.

Cllr Ger Plunkett said although people are generally happy about the development some are still considering their options about appealing to An Bord Pleanala in relation to the size of the wind turbines and their proximity to people’s houses and how it may effect their value.

“The consultative process has been excellent. There were public meetings between Bord na Mona and locals in Daingean, Walsh Island and Mountlucas. It’s a different venture for Bord na Mona and there will be a nature trail running right through it.”

Cllr Plunkett outlined that while Bord na Mona addressed most of the locals issues, some are still worried about how the massive structures would impact on them. “There is always a downer to progress.”

Meanwhile Cllr Liam Quinn said north Offaly has seen massive loss of industry in recent years and he welcomes the fact that the County Development plan emphasises the strategic importance of North Offaly in terms of green energy and power production.

“One of the challenges facing our local authority is to balance the development of the region without adversely affecting the quality of life for the people who live here. I have met with many of the local people in relation to this project. The surge in traffic that will occur during the construction phase continues to be one of the biggest issues concerning residents.

“It is vital that the construction traffic relating to this site be restricted to the main roads where possible and that the regional and county road network around the site be upgraded to a suitable standard when construction commences,” explained Cllr Quinn.

He said wants this issue to be discussed at the next Edenderry Area Meeting of Offaly County Council to ensure that the council are doing everything it can to address the concerns of local residents.

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