Creating Projects that are Good for Local Communities
Since mid 2018, extensive community engagement has been undertaken with neighbours living close to the proposed site. This is part of Coillte’s fair play approach for those who are most impacted by the development and living within 2km of a proposed turbine. The project manager and community liaison officer have undertaken a programme of work to ensure that accurate information is shared and that stakeholders have a forum where queries can be posed and addressed. The format of this programme includes printed information, house visits, community meetings, small group meetings and monthly progress meetings, which have been on-going on this project since June 2018 and will continue into the future. As specified in the fair play programme, once the project design has reached the latter stages, engagement expands to the wider community in advance of a planning application. All the information within is formatted to provide an understanding of the proposed wind farm, its design and its environmental credentials.
Community Benefit and Investment Proposal
Croagh Wind Farm has the potential to bring significant positive benefit to the local community. The project will create sustainable local employment, it will contribute annual rates to the local authority and it will provide opportunity for local community investment in the project in line with the new Renewable Energy Support Scheme. As with all wind farm projects which Coillte develop, a community benefit fund will be put in place for the lifetime of the project to provide direct funding to those areas surrounding the project.
Community Benefit Fund and Investment
Two important areas of Government policy development are nearing completion which will have a bearing on the establishment of future community benefit funds, the updated Wind Energy Guidelines and the Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS). Both sets of policy are expected to be finalised during Q2/Q3 2020 which will provide the Government requirements on future community benefit funds for renewable energy projects. We will fully take into account these two important policies as we present the Coillte approach to community benefit. Coillte expects that for each megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity produced by the wind farm, the project will contribute €2 into a community fund for the RESS period i.e. first 15 years of operation and €1 per MWh for the remaining lifetime of the wind farm. If this commitment is improved upon in upcoming Government Policy we will adjust accordingly.
If this project is constructed as currently designed we estimate that a total of approximately 5 million euro will be available in the local area for community funding over the lifetime of the project. This figure is indicative only and will be dependent on the generation capacity of the wind farm which is influenced by a number of factors including:
1. Number of wind turbines.
2. Capacity and availability of energy production of those turbines.
3. Quantity of wind (we can have both good and bad wind years).
How will the fund be used and administered?
The Community Benefit Fund is for the benefit of the local community. The premise of the fund is that it should be used to bring about significant, positive change in the local area. To make this happen, our first task should be to form a benefit fund development working group that clearly represents both the close neighbours to the project as well as nearby communities. This group would then work on designing the governance and structure of a community entity that would administer the Community Benefit Fund. The establishment of the CBF will be consistent with any requirements set out within the Wind Energy Guidelines and Renewable Energy Support Scheme. We aim to commence this work in Autumn 2020 and if you are interested in joining this working group, please contact us.
What is meant by Community Investment?
The proposed Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) sets out that future renewable energy project proposals enable the possibility for local communities to invest in projects in a meaningful way as a means to directly gain from the financial dividends that a project can provide should it be consented, built and operated. In response to this, Coillte have been working hard with external agencies exploring workable models for Community Investment. As with the benefit fund, we aim to take this work into the community during 2020, to continue to explore this exciting possibility and in line with RESS requirements, to see how best to embed its design within the community.