CLONAKILTY is set to deliver on its pledge to be the first town in the country to go off-grid.
Renewable energy firm Amarenco has planning permission for a solar farm in Shannonvale that has the potential to provide enough electricity to power a town the size of Clonakilty.
The community is working to finalise the purchase of the scheme, and plans to make a bid to supply power to the national grid next year under the State’s new renewable energy support scheme (RESS).
Construction work is expected to start on the multi-million euro development in 2023.
Over its lifetime, the 100% community-owned development is expected to become an income-generating asset with all profits reinvested back into the community to fund developments such as playgrounds and youth centres.
The project will be debt-financed and there will be an opportunity for local people to invest and be part of the innovative journey.
This is another first for the trailblazing town which was also the country’s first Fairtrade and first Autism Friendly Town.
The town’s Chamber of Commerce has been working hard to make this happen since it got a ‘Cool Community’ status from the Cool Planet Group after committing to a range of carbon-reducing measures in 2019.
Chamber chairperson Orla O’Donovan, along with a dedicated working group, introduced various sustainable initiatives since then, but the ultimate aim was to go off-grid entirely, and that’s now coming to fruition.
Johnny O’Donovan, member of Clon’s RESS committee, said they recognised the massive potential of the project from the outset. ‘The profits generated over its lifetime will go directly back into our community,’ he explained.
Cork South West Deputy and vice-chair of the Oireachtas committee on Climate Action, Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), has been involved in the plan from its inception and recently facilitated a meeting between the Chamber of Commerce and Cork County Council to discuss potential partnerships to build the solar farm.
‘If successful, it will mean Clonakilty will be a renewable energy leader in Ireland,’ he told The Southern Star. ‘The Climate Action Bill has set some very ambitious targets which won’t be easy to achieve. But towns like Clonakilty are showing how co-operation and a little imagination could see an entire town reduce its emissions significantly.’
‘When Orla said a number of years ago that Clonakilty could go off the grid, many people laughed,’ he added. ‘But it’s more and more becoming something that’s within our grasp. It will take a couple of years, but the Chamber is totally committed to bringing this project to fruition.’