With at least two new significant windfarm developments being planned for the North Mayo area, a local councillor has proposed that commercial developers of such projects should consider making neighbouring communities a shareholder in their ventures.
Cllr Jarlath Munnelly of the Ballina Municipal District made his comments following news of Bord na Móna’s plans for an Oweninny phase three windfarm in the Bellacorick area, together with reports that a company known as Mercury Renewables has applied to An Bord Pleanála to engage in pre-application consultation in respect of a proposed €100m 15-turbine windfarm in the Bonniconlon area.
Oweninny Power DAC, which comprises Bord na Móna and ESB interests, completed and commissioned the first of the planned two-phase Oweninny Windfarm in the Bellacorick area last summer.
It is hoped to commence work on the second phase by the end of this year. Information sessions in relation to Oweninny phase three may also be staged locally in and around the same time.
Noting past controversy in relation to the community benefit fund that has been agreed between Oweninny Power DAC and Mayo County Council, Cllr Munnelly remarked that commercial windfarm developers could learn a lot from the example of the likes of the Killala Community Windfarm.
Initially comprised of five turbines, the development was pursued by local landowners who, in addition to allowing for a community benefit fund, awarded the local community a shareholding in the project, with Killala Community Council owning a five per cent 5% stake and earning an annual dividend payment for the community.
Cllr Munnelly noted that while the windfarm has since been acquired by a commercial operator, the model adopted by its founders allowed the community to be a key stakeholder and beneficiary.
He remarked that if a model of this nature were adopted in relation to the large Oweninny windfarm development it would have the immediate effect of changing the public conversation from one of what will the community get out of it by virtue of the fact that the community will have become a partner in the initiative with the developer.
“It would be a much more equitable way of developing windfarms; rather than having an external company coming in and developing the windfarm alone, you have the community becoming a shareholder and having a pro-rata interest and benefit.”