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Ballinagree Wind Farm prepares to submit planning application

September 2nd, 2021 7:00 AM

Photo: Keith Arkins

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This is a “code red for humanity”, warned UN Secretary General António Guterres after the recent IPCC report revealed the frightening reality of global warming.

The evidence is clear: devastating storms, severe flooding, punishing droughts and scorching heatwaves have wreaked havoc around the world in recent months.

Climate change can no longer be ignored.

To help tackle global warming, the Government’s Climate Action Plan commits the country to generating 70% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030, which requires an additional 4,000MW of onshore wind to be developed.

Coillte Renewable Energy and Ørsted’s intent is to contribute to Ireland’s ambitious renewable energy goals with their co-development project, Ballinagree Wind Farm in Co Cork.

Coillte, the state-owned forestry business, and Danish renewables company Ørsted, which recently acquired Brookfield’s Irish operations, will submit a planning application for the proposed Ballinagree Wind Farm to An Bord Pleanála in the coming weeks.

The submission comprises 20 wind turbines with a proposed overall blade tip height of up to 185 metres to be constructed on Coillte land and that of 16 local landowners.

This planning application comes after an extensive community engagement programme.

Over the past two years, the Ballinagree project team has actively looked for input and feedback from local communities and representatives.

Our aim is to develop a wind farm that benefits the local community as well as the country as a whole.

We want Ballinagree to be a well-designed wind farm that marks us as industry leaders in terms of community engagement, project management, construction and operations.

Ballinagree Wind Farm has the potential to contribute significantly to reducing Ireland’s carbon outputs by generating more than 300MWh (megawatt hours) of clean, green electricity every year.

Ballinagree’s dedicated Community Liaison Officers recently distributed the fifth brochure containing a wealth of updated information while the second virtual community consultation is available at ballinagreewindfarm.ie.

Webinars will follow in late September to provide an opportunity to meet the team and ask specific questions within Covid guidelines.

If the planning application is successful and the project enters the construction phase, a substantial Community Benefit Fund will be available.

This consists of a Near Neighbour Fund and a wider community fund that provides direct local project funding.

Based on the Government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), if the project is approved and constructed as proposed, Ballinagree Wind Farm could contribute more than €600,000 per annum to the Community Benefit Fund for the first 15 years (based on RESS mandated amount of € 2/MWh).

The developers also commit to more than €300,000 a year in funds for the remainder of its operational life (based on a contribution of € 1/MWh).

Participation in the RESS scheme obliges developers to establish a Community Benefit Fund where communities are placed at the heart of the decision-making process.

Full details on the recently pub- lished ‘Good Practice Handbook for RESS Community Benefit Funds’ can be found at www.gov.ie.

There are other benefits on a local level, including landowner payments and local authority rate contributions, as well as local services required mainly during the construction stage.

The wind farm site itself would also have access tracks and existing forestry paths upgraded to recreational amenity trails for community use.

This includes the installation of signs and information boards, a car park and picnic area.

There’s the bigger picture, too. This project could deliver sufficient electricity to power the equivalent of more than 70,000 homes, improving Ireland’s energy security while avoiding approximately 110,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

When An Bord Pleanála has received the submission, the full planning application, complete with all relevant submitted documentation and diagrams, will be available at ballinagreeplanning.ie.

For more, see ballinagreewindfarm.ie

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