Windfarm developers pledge to give millions to community

Ghislain Demeuldre, Head of Construction Ireland at SSE Renewables addressing last week's briefing.

The developers of Galway Wind Park in Connemara have pledged to spend millions of euro on local community organisations over the next 25 years.

SSE and Coillte say they want to leave a “lasting and enduring” legacy long after the windfarm is constructed by the end of next year.

The windfarm at Doon East, which is located in Rosscahill, two miles west of Moycullen, when finished will be the largest onshore windfarm in the country.

Once the park becomes operational, SSE and Coillte have vowed to “jointly establish a community fund to benefit the local community, as well as the wider area, over the 25-years life of the wind park”.

The exact amount of cash injection hasn’t been revealed but the two organisations say the fund “is expected to be split between a multi-million-euro local community fund and a multi-million-euro regional fund.”

During the construction stage, SSE and Coillte say they have already invested €150,000 to support over 30 local community projects, including sports teams such as Moycullen Ladies GAA, St Paul’s basketball team, Oughterard RFC, Moycullen Basketball, and Killannin GAA. Men’s Shed Moycullen, Killannin Scouts, Oughterard Scouts, Galway Hospice, and Moycullen Active Retirement, also benefited from funds from the developers.

They promise to pump millions of euro into local community groups over the next two-and-a-half decades was contained in the Galway Wind Park Sustainability Impact Report, which was officially launched in Moycullen last week.

The report, commissioned by SSE and Coillte, claims that over 100 local businesses have provided products and services to the wind energy project, representing a €20m spend so far with the local supply chain in County Galway.

Nationally, Galway Wind Park has already contributed €88.7m to Irish Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the report.

When completed in late 2017, it will be the largest onshore wind farm in Ireland, with the capacity to generate enough green energy to power around 89,000 homes, equivalent to almost 80% of the homes in Galway.

Speaking at the launch in the Forge, Moycullen last week, County Councillor Noel Thomas, Cathaoirleach of Connemara Municipal District, welcomed the community-gain element of the project.

“The benefits to the local community from the development by both companies of Galway Wind Park have been very positive, with both short-term and long-term impacts,” said the Fianna Fáil Councillor.

“We have seen short-term benefits from employment during the construction phase, creating a great opportunity for local contractors to expand, invest in their businesses and provide significantly more employment in the area. Over the long-term there is going to be a major investment by SSE and Coillte in a community fund. This will be a multi-million Euro fund that will be available for local communities to draw down on, and this will have a very positive impact in the local community over the next 25 years,” he added.

The report quotes local suppliers, who are involved in the project. Niall Curran, of Niall Curran Plant Hire, Moycullen said he was very grateful for the opportunity to work on the project. “I’m happy to say that as a result of working on the project, not only have I been able to invest significantly in new plant machinery, I’ve been able to provide additional employment to six local people, not to mention the jobs created by other local businesses that I use to keep my machines working. As for the future, working on this project has already led to securing work elsewhere around the county,” said Mr Curran.

Tom Gilligan of Lydon Steel Ltd in Galway, which provides steel for the turbine bases, is also “delighted” to be part of the project.

“Not only has our association with the project allowed us to significantly grow our business somewhere in the region of 20%, but crucially we have been able to employ an additional three people, creating much needed employment in the local area. We are also proud to have contributed in some way to bringing a source of renewable energy to Galway,” said Mr Gilligan.

In advance of the launch of the report, representatives of SSE management met with Doon East residents in Killannin Community Centre. The meeting was called in response to repeated concerns expressed by locals in relation to how the project is being managed.

Residents have expressed concerns about impacts on their health from the construction, and traffic.

Speaking about the meeting with residents, Catherine Hannon, SSE Public Affairs Manager, said: “We are grateful for the ongoing support of the residents, communities and other stakeholders. We continue to engage with all stakeholders in the area to ensure the local benefits of the project are maximised and to minimise any disruption.”