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Bord na Móna plans wind farm every year for next seven years

State company plans to become major producer of green energy

Demonstrators from various anti-wind farm groups protest as Minister for Energy Alex White officially opened Bord na Móna’s €115 million wind farm at Mountlucas, Co Offaly. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Bord na Móna directors will meet in the coming months to plan a “major rethink” in its strategy, as the State peat company looks to reinvent itself as a significant producer of renewable energy through wind and solar farms.

The company officially launched a €115 million wind farm at a bog in Mount Lucas, Co Offaly, its largest investment to date.

Bord na Móna, which has landholdings equivalent in size to Co Louth, plans to deliver “a new wind farm every year for the next seven years” on its bogs, according to its managing director Mike Quinn.

The Mount Lucas wind farm comprises 28 huge turbines producing 84 megawatts of electricity, enough to power up to 45,000 homes. It was officially opened on Monday by Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White.

Protest

The Minister was confronted at the entrance to Mount Lucas by about 30 protesters from various anti-wind farm groups, who argue that wind farms create noise pollution and are “wreaking havoc on communities all over Ireland”.

Minister White argued that new wind farm facilities such as Mount Lucas are of “strategic importance” to the State.

He said protesters should be “listened to”, and he promised to address the issue of community consultation in relation to wind farms in the Government’s upcoming White Paper on energy, due for publication later this year.

“Energy policy is the property of the people of Ireland, and I will not assume [their] agreement,” the Minister said.

Mr Quinn said Bord na Móna was in the midst of “seismic change” as it sought to diversify from its core activity of peat extraction. “We want to develop a portfolio of wind farms across the midlands. [Mount Lucas] is the first in a series of steps towards this,” he said.

In addition to Mount Lucas, Bord na Móna has wind farms projects at Oweninny in Mayo, where it plans to develop the first phase of a 300MW wind farm with the ESB, as well as at Bruckana near the Tipperary-Laois border. It also owns 88 per cent of a wind farm at Bellacorick in Mayo.

Solar energy

John Reilly, the head of Bord na Móna’s energy division, said in addition to its wind plans, the company was in discussions with solar energy companies, and planned to trial a solar project in Co Offaly in 2016.

“Decarbonising our economy will come at a cost. But Irish onshore wind is one of the lowest-cost renewable-energy solutions,” he said. “Bord na Móna believes Ireland can have early mover advantage in this area.”

Ireland has committed to derive 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources as part of its 2020 European Union emissions targets.

Mr White said the Government was seeking “feasible, cost-effective and fair” European emissions targets for 2030, which are currently under negotiation among member states.