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Whiddy left in dark over energy plant

September 5th, 2022 12:30 PM

By Brian Moore

Ellen Ruhotas of Zenith Energy with EI-H2’s Pearse Flynn, in Bantry at the launch in 2021 .

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DESPITE the fanfare announcement last year of hundreds of jobs for Whiddy Island and a pledge it would become ‘one of the world’s largest energy facilities’ producing green hydrogen and green ammonia, locals have said they have heard nothing since.

The ambitious plan was announced as a joint venture between Zenith Energy, who operate the oil terminal on the island, and EI-H2, Ireland’s first green hydrogen company.

In July 2021, they unveiled plans to develop a 3.2 gigawatt (GW) green energy facility on Whiddy which, when fully operational by 2028, would have the potential to reduce Irish carbon emissions by 2.4m tonnes per year.

On the day of the announcement, a team of representatives from both Zenith and EI-H2 went door-to-door on Whiddy, distributing literature on the 3.2 gigawatt (GW) green energy facility.

Speaking at the announcement of the project Zenith managing director Ellen Ruhotas said: ‘This partnership is an excellent opportunity for our Bantry operations, for the local community and for Ireland as a country.’

Pearse Flynn, founder of EI-H2, added: ‘With a renewable source of offshore wind and water, we can produce real fuel alternatives to help industry and commercial customers reduce their carbon footprint.’

He added that Ireland needs to ‘think big’ to realise its ‘green potential’.

However, chair of the Whiddy Island Community Council, Danny O’Leary said that the islanders had many concerns and questions that remain unanswered about the plans for the facility.

And he told The Southern Star: ‘We’ve heard nothing since.’

He said islanders had one meeting with representatives from both companies and plans to have another meeting were put in place, but were cancelled due to Covid-19.

‘Since then we haven’t heard a word. I’d need more information specifically on the scale of the project and reassurances on how safe it is.’

Whiddy was the scene of Ireland’s worst maritime disaster in 1979 when an oil tanker exploded at the terminal which was then operated and owned by Gulf Oil, and 50 people were killed.

It now appears that, according to EI-H2, the hydrogen project is only at the feasibility stage, and no firm decision has been made as yet as to whether it will actually go ahead on Whiddy. A spokesperson for EI-H2 said: ‘The feasibility study into the development of a hydrogen production facility in Bantry Bay is continuing.’

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