Wind farms invested almost €3.5 million in rural communities in 2019

Energy efficiency projects and third level scholarships, sports clubs, active retired groups and local festivals were some of the schemes to benefit from almost €3.5 million in community investment from Irish wind farms in 2019.

The figures were released today (Monday, November 30) in the wind energy community benefit report 2019 from the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA).

The report identified the top five counties for wind energy community benefit funding, with Co. Galway leading the way with €831,860; followed by Co. Cork on €424,740; Co. Roscommon on €334,600; Co. Tipperary on €258,700; and Co. Limerick on €243,250.

Dr. David Connolly, CEO of the IWEA, said he is very proud of the contribution that the association makes to supporting local communities across Ireland and is “constantly impressed by the dedication, enthusiasm and imagination we meet in local communities”.

“Without this support, many fantastic local projects would struggle to find alternative funding and it is critical that communities see tangible benefits from renewables as part of the just transition away from fossil fuels,” Dr. Connolly said.

Local communities deserve to benefit from the construction and operation of local wind farms.

“Wind energy continues to be Ireland’s most valuable tool in the fight against climate change. The more clean energy we can generate for our homes, farms, schools and businesses, the less we rely on fossil fuels and the more we can invest in supporting communities.”

According to the IWEA, wind farms also pay approximately €40 million each year to local councils.

Supporting scholars

Galway Wind Park, managed by SSE Renewables in conjunction with their partners Greencoat Renewables, runs a third-level scholarship fund for students from the locality.

The Galway Wind Park Scholarship Fund was launched in 2019 and offers funding for full and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses to students living within 20km of the wind farm. Students can apply for funding of 50% of their tuition fees for up to a maximum of three years.

According to the IWEA, Galway Wind Park also delivers an annual community fund of €200,000 for residents living within 20km of the wind farm.

Projects funded in 2019 included replacing windows and doors for energy efficiency, outdoor lighting to facilitate exercising in winter, education programmes and funding towards an autism unit.

Benefit funding to rise

The level of community benefit funding is expected to rise in coming years, as new wind farms connect to the system, contributed to by the introduction of the government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

Projects seeking support under the RESS will be required to contribute €2 for every MWh (megawatt-hour) of electricity produced, which will typically result in over €15,000 per turbine “going directly towards local community projects every year”.

Dr. Connolly continued: “Under the RESS, there will be a significant increase in the amount of funding going into Ireland’s rural communities from the next generation of wind and solar projects.

“We are proud that the wind energy industry is playing our part in enabling the volunteers at the heart of Ireland’s communities to continue to achieve the impossible and we can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in the years to come.”