Independent TD for Laois-Offaly, Carol Nolan, has said that she has “little or no faith” in the commitments being provided by Bord na Móna (BNM) with respect to the proposed energy park it plans to build on 3,000ha of its landbank in the midlands.

Deputy Nolan was speaking after Bord na Móna confirmed that the company proposes to develop Ireland’s first dedicated renewable energy business park across peatlands in Meath, Offaly and Westmeath, close to Junction 3 of the M6 motorway at Rochfortbridge, Co Westmeath.

“Given the scale of the emerging energy crisis, and continuing evidence of how unreliable and unpredictable large-scale reliance on renewable energy is, then it is difficult to see this plan as anything but counter-productive, the deputy said.

Energy park for data centres

Bord na Móna said that it expects that the energy park will be attractive for industrial-scale and high-demand energy users, such as large-scale distribution facilities and data centres.

Deputy Nolan continued: “This is almost absurd given the recent confirmation we have had from Intel e.g., that it is actively reconsidering its own plans to build its next data centre here in Ireland precisely because of our existing energy policy.

“This proposed ‘energy park’ is just more of the same.”

This week, the Dáil is expected to debate a motion calling on the government to initiate a moratorium on data centre construction for the foreseeable future.

“What will BNM do if that happens? In such an environment, how can it be certain that its plan will not be rejected even before it gets off the ground?” Nolan said.

Consultation on Bord na Móna park

Bord na Móna expects to lodge a planning application for the new energy park in the next 18 to 24 months and has said that it will engage in extensive consultation with the local communities adjacent to the proposed energy park.

Deputy Nolan said: “The sad reality is this, we do not have the luxury of waiting two years for increased energy availability.

“There is also the plain reality that very few communities in the midlands, and particularly in Offaly, believe a word that BNM says when it comes to ‘community consultation’.

“They rightly believe that this is just hot air and noise designed to give the impression of active listening, when a decision has already been made at corporate level,” the deputy added.

The independent TD has said that she remains to be convinced that the proposed renewable energy park will do anything concrete do provide real employment and lasting energy security.