Helping to deliver Northern Ireland's renewable targets
Delivering the Northern Ireland Executive’s 40% renewable electricity target by 2020 is already providing significant investment and job creation for NI. The most recent evidence for this is SSE’s 73MW Slieve Kirk Wind Park in Co. Londonderry which formally opened yesterday.
Delivered at a total capital investment of £125million, £36 million of this was spent with 75 local companies, all based within a 55 mile radius of the site. These include small local family-owned firms, sole-traders, specialist engineering and environmental enterprises.
Adding to this local investment Slieve Kirk Wind Park will deliver a significant long-term financial legacy for the region spending a further £18.5m over the next 25 years. This includes commercial rates payments to local councils to fund existing services and improved infrastructure, as well as landowner lease payments and community funding. That brings the total benefit to the region from the new wind farm to a minimum of £55m over its lifetime.
Examples like this provide clear and demonstrable evidence of the local and regional economic and environmental benefits of harnessing energy from wind.
Meeting the Executive’s 2020 renewable targets will require almost three times the current investment. Doing so will reduce Northern Ireland’s dependence on costly fossil fuels and provide a long term sustainable energy supply to homes and businesses. It will also bring local employment and benefits.
However, if Northern Ireland is to realise ths economic opportunity communities at a local level must also see the benefit. This can only be achieved through open and sincere community engagement and through local employment and investment.
SSE Airtricity’s Community Fund is an example of this community investment. Since 2008 we have invested £450,000 into 230 projects beside our Northern Ireland wind farms. These projects have improved energy efficiency and supported rural clubs and groups. This demonstrates communities living and working in areas with a strong renewable resource can realise its benefits directly. However, only by maintaining an open dialogue with communities can we continue to realise the full potential of renewable energy for the economy and wider society.