Eight families go electric in Aran Islands pilot project


EIGHT Aran families are navigating island roads with electric cars this weekend as part of a three-year project to cut dependency on fossil fuels.

Some 24 families in all will participate in the pilot project, which is being run by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) with the Department of Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

The long-term aim is to charge the cars with power provided by wind energy, but this will not happen until next year at the earliest, according to SEAI.

Inis Meáin has a wind farm which runs its desalination plant, but the co-op responsible for it has experienced recent difficulties.

Resident Dara Molloy of the Coiste Fuinneamh Inis Mór said that six of the cars would be located on the larger island, and one each on Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr. “Our aim is to become self-sustainable with our own energy sources, and electric cars are the first step. Each house is being provided with a smart meter which will feed information back to SEAI on energy use of the vehicles,” he said.

An open competition was held to select the 24 households, eight of which will have the cars for the first year. Householders will be given the option of purchasing the cars when the project is over, with each vehicle currently valued at €16,000.

Caitríona Ní Bhuachalla, who is testing one of the cars on Inis Mór, said that she liked the idea of using renewable energy. “They chose the islands as they know exactly how much fuel is coming in here by ferry, and they can compare this with the amount we use,” she said.

The fact that the cars are silent will “take a bit of getting used to”, but “the fact that they are bright orange means that if we aren’t heard, we will be seen”, she said.

Participants pay the €400 cost of the smart meter and plug-in socket, and were asked for a deposit on the vehicle.

SEAI energy demand manager Kevin O’Rourke said that the Aran Islands could be viewed as a microcosm, and this was ideal for the purposes of encouraging renewable energy use.