ESB to open wind farm at Carnsore Point

For Christy Moore, Chris de Burgh and all those who stood in the mud to hear them, it must seem like sweet victory.

For Christy Moore, Chris de Burgh and all those who stood in the mud to hear them, it must seem like sweet victory.

Almost 25 years after Moore called for a ban on "O'Malley's plan", the ESB is to open a wind farm at its original nuclear energy site at Carnsore Point, Co Wexford.

The Carnsore Point wind farm will contribute 12 megawatts of electricity to the national grid and may save 8,000 tonnes in fossil fuel imports in any one year, according to its architects.

It will prevent 34,000 tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere, according to the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Mr Ahern, who is due to switch on the turbines today.

Mr Ahern wasn't there for the rock and the rain in August 1978, but he is expected to recall today the opposition to the ESB's original nuclear energy plans when Mr Des O'Malley was Fianna Fáil minister for industry, commerce and energy. Some 5,000 people travelled to Carnsore for the first protest, which sparked off the green movement, and the company dropped its plans several years later.

This green alternative has not been without some objections.

Wexford County Council initially refused planning permission after local objectors claimed that the proposed wind farm would be noisy, would devalue property and spoil the landscape. The ESB appealed successfully to An Bord Pleanála, but the residents then objected to a planning application for a 38 kv power line linking the plant to the national grid.

Carnsore is the State's 23rd commercial wind farm and total installed capacity from wind energy now stands at 137 megawatts, according to the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources.

It represents the third wind farm built under the liberalised electricity market. The other two projects were built by Airtricity at Cuillagh, near Ballybofey, Co Donegal, (11.88 mw) and Corneen, Ballyconnell, Co Cavan, (3 mw).

Carnsore's commissioning coincides with the closing date for the sixth round of the Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) VI programme, which will meet its target of delivering in excess of 500 mw of green power. Earlier this week, the department said AER would offer higher prices for alternative energy.

Mr Ahern said 578 mw of new green energy was to be delivered by 2005 under AER. This would reduce Ireland's dependency on imported fossil fuels by more than four million barrels of oil (seven oil tanker shiploads) every year or 60 million barrels of oil (100 oil tanker shiploads) over 15 years.

He said this would improve Ireland's national trade balance by €110 million annually by redirecting money previously spent on energy imports back into the economy.

This represents about €2 billion to the economy over 15 years - being the lifetime of the contracts. Most of this new energy will derive from onshore wind projects but about 50 mw will also be generated offshore. Other green energy generators under the scheme include landfill gas, small-scale hydro power plants and anaerobic digestion plants.