Aran Island residents who have pioneered energy-saving initiatives including electric vehicles and the replacement of fossil fuels with heat pumps were among the winners at an annual sustainable energy awards ceremony on Thursday night.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) announced the winners of its awards at an event in Dublin.
The Sustainable Energy Awards reward “excellence in energy management in businesses, communities and public sector organisations”.
Mike Pearson of Gurteen College in Tipperary took the top prize for energy manager of the year. Mr Pearson, the principal of the agricultural college, developed a renewable energy programme to reduce the impact of energy usage and to improve its efficiency throughout the college grounds.
The judges said he impressed them with his spearheading of the ambitious renewable energy programme, which includes a wind turbine, solar electricity system and a biomass boiler. The boiler is fuelled from willow grown onsite and provides 80 per cent of the college’s heating.
Other winners included MPOWER for its work with the Tallaght Community Living Lab. The organisation received a €10,000 research bursary for its research project which aims to develop a model for communities to produce and share electricity at a local level.
The Aran Islands Community Energy Cooperative won the community award for what the judges said was “its impressive grassroots approach to efficiency and renewable energy”.
“Open to every island resident, the co-operative has brought about massive changes since its establishment in 2012. Progress is continuing, and over half of the houses and buildings on the three islands have completed energy upgrades since 2012 and half of the buildings on Inis Oírr have now replaced fossil fuels with heat pumps and solar photovoltaic panels,” the SEAI said. “Inis Mór is also taking significant strides with 10 electric vehicles now in use on the island.”
The Renewable Award went to Eirgrid for its DS3 system, which will increase the level of renewable generation possible on the power system at any given time.
Other winners included Aut Even Hospital, Kilkenny; the Rediscovery Centre, Ballymun; Wyeth Nutrition in Limerick; Lidl Ireland and Northern Ireland, and Sligo University Hospital.
‘Passion and creativity’
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said he was heartened by all the projects put forward. "It is great to see such passion and creativity being directed at what is the most crucial issue of our time – responding to climate change and ensuring that we are turning towards more sustainable energy sources," Mr Bruton said. "The innovative approaches taken by the finalists demonstrate the expertise Ireland has in this area and will inspire others to follow suit."
Chief executive of SEAI Jim Gannon said the awards were "a vivid demonstration of how Irish business, communities and public organisations are pushing the boundaries in energy efficiency and the switch to clean energy".
He said the 80-plus entrants had made energy savings of €38 million and were responsible for €30 million in energy generated from renewables, which was equivalent to powering 166,000 homes.