The benefits of achieving Ireland’s renewable energy targets for rural Ireland and how the environment can be protected from wind farms will be discussed at a European Commission event in Co. Sligo this evening (Tuesday, November 22).

The ‘Energy and the Environment’ event will be the fourth and final one in a roadshow series organised by European Commission Representation Ireland, all of which have related to energy and the EU’s ‘RePower’ plan.

It will feature a panel discussion with speakers Dave Linehan, head of research at Wind Energy Ireland, Mairead Hogan, senior environmental consultant for ESB’s Oweninny Wind Farm, and Will Woodrow, the vice president of the Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management.

Speaking to Agriland, Linehan said he will be discussing the current state of play in relation to Ireland’s renewable energy supply and how it has been disrupted over the past year.

Lenihan will also discuss future plans for developing renewable energy within Ireland and the EU, focussing on the benefits that making strides in this sector could bring.

“The big point I want to get across this evening is around the economic opportunities of renewable energy.

“To realise that in relation to the targets that the government have set, if we can get that right, it will mean quite a significant investment in the country and lots of new job opportunities for rural communities,” he said.

Lenihan added that he feels its an important topic to discuss and said tonight “is a very welcome type of event.

“We’re on the cusp of something big here if we get the planning and regulatory decisions right now,” he concluded.

Wind farms discussion

Another key topic that will be discussed at the event is the importance of carrying out proper ecological impact assessments during the development of wind farms, which Woodrow will focus on.

He told Agriland that it is important to highlight this to both protect wildlife but also to avoid delays in the planning process, so that targets can be met on time.

“There are many public challenges to wind farm applications, so we need to be able to have a really solid impact assessment that cannot be challenged.

“It’s important because these types of objections can cause delays of three years and that will throw us off meeting our targets,” he said.

He stated that there are sites which are unsuitable for wind farms, as the turbines will disrupt habitats and pose dangers to the local bird and bat populations, and said that when this is the case, it must be acknowledged.

“I’ll also be discussing avoiding investing too early, before looking at these potential barriers.

“If we think about these things at an early enough stage, we can avoid problems in the process and lots of money going down the drain,” he finished.

The discussion will begin at 6:00p.m in the Aurivo Theatre at the Atlantic Technological University in Co. Sligo.