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Two-year timeline for Clon’s off-grid solar project to start

March 22nd, 2022 1:30 PM

By Kieran O'Mahony

At the launch of the initiative last August were, from left: Michael Scully, Tim Coffey, Orla O’Donovan, Christopher O’Sullivan TD and Johnny O’Donovan. (Photo: Dermot Sullivan)

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CLONAKILTY’S ambitious plans to go ‘off grid’ are moving a step closer with plans to have the country’s first community-based solar project up and running within the next two years.

At a Clon Chamber event held in Clonakilty Distillery last week, Johnny O’Donovan gave members an update on the Clonakilty Solar project, which was first mooted to tie in with the ‘Cool Clon’ concept in 2019.

Clon Chamber recently completed the purchase from renewable energy company Amarenco of a 26-acre site with full planning permission for a 5MW solar farm, near Beanhill in Shannonvale.

The company had initially intended to build a solar farm in the area, but those plans were shelved.

‘We formed a committee within the Chamber to push this project and also applied to secure a grid connection which we needed to do quickly as part of the process,’ said Johnny. ‘We are going to mount 22,200 solar panels into that field and then connect it with the ESB sub-station at Tawnies Upper and we need to build two onsite transformer stations and perimeter fencing.’

Johnny said that when it’s up and running, the scheme will be the first 100% community owned solar project in Ireland.

Within a year enough power will be used to run 1,500 homes and it has a life span of 35 years.

‘After financing costs it is also intended that the project will create a surplus to Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, which will be invested back into the community.

‘It is estimated the scheme will save 1.75m kgs of carbon from the atmosphere and it should create a ‘can do’ knock on effect for other towns for what they can do in similar schemes.’

Clon Chamber are now the owners of the site, having finalised the purchase in January and it is envisaged that construction of the project will commence in the first quarter of next year, while it intends to commence operations in 2024.

They will also be seeking to raise finance for it later this year from both local and national companies.

Tim Coffey, who works in the power industry and who originally suggested the idea to Clon Chamber, said this project is ‘really deliverable’ and it’s as easy as it gets as solar energy is very well understood.

‘I don’t think it’s anything that a community like ours can’t take on.

‘We have experienced people here too and also as part of our deal we will have strong support from Amarenco and they will be doing a lot of construction management and helping us with finance,’ said Tim.

Cork South West FF TD Christopher O’Sullivan said this is a ‘template’ and that once again Clonakilty is ‘leading the way’.

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