Ireland will see a total of €4.7bn invested in onshore wind energy projects between now and 2020, and will more than double its production of clean indigenous and renewable energy, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), which revealed the figures at its annual autumn conference in Galway today.

Entitled ‘Building a Sustainable Energy Future’, the conference heard that, at the end of September, 119 new wind energy projects have signed contracts to accept grid connection offers as part of the ‘Gate 3’ process.

Deposits totalling €27m have been paid by the applicants of the 119 projects, which will have a total generation capacity of 2,746 megawatts (MW), the IWEA outlined. The increased capacity will more than double the amount of electricity generated by wind in Ireland and allow Ireland to meet its 2020 energy targets, thereby avoiding significant financial penalties amounting to at least €350m per year, it added.

Speaking at the conference Kenneth Matthews, CEO of IWEA, said: “It is critical now that we maintain momentum and create the required regulatory certainty that will ensure delivery of these projects between now and 2020. As an industry we must bring all communities and stakeholders on this journey if we are to collectively reap the benefits.”

In his address to the conference, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte TD, welcomed the new IWEA member study and was highly critical of, what he claims, the current “misinformation and miscommunication of the export project in the public domain”.

“I am aware, and so should this conference be aware, that there are concerns in parts of the Midlands about the shape of the wind export project. Some of these concerns have been needlessly stoked by unthinking communication by some developers. Citizens and community groups are entitled to have their concerns properly addressed. It is undoubtedly the case that misinformation abounds. However, being dismissive of the questioners is not the way to deal with wrong information.”

The minister continued to address a number of “gross distortions and mischievous exaggerations” currently in the public domain.

“It is not true that there won’t be a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). It is not true that the skies over the Midlands will be blighted by wind turbines. It is not true that communities will be excluded from inputting into the process. It is not true that we will be giving away a valuable indigenous resource. It is not true that we will be exporting green energy at the expense of meeting our own mandatory domestic targets. It is not true that there are no jobs for local people in developing an export sector in green energy. Nor is it right to exaggerate the number of jobs that will be created although none of us can forecast precisely the exciting potential.”

The minister stressed that he was putting in place a national renewable energy export policy and planning framework, which will guide An Bord Pleanála when considering any proposals of a significant scale for wind energy export projects.

The proposed large–scale wind farms intending to export must await the putting in place of this framework which will be underpinned by a SEA, he added.

Transparency of this process is crucial over the next 12 months, he said and it was announced that a special section on renewable exports of the Communication Department’s website and the initial phase of public and stakeholder consultation on the framework would go live in the next few weeks.

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