THE Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte was in East Clare this week, where he discussed the possibility of the Finsa Forest Products Plant in Scariff being redeveloped as a biomass plant.
Minister Rabbitte visited the former chipboard factory on Monday where he told local TD and party colleague, Michael McNamara the development of a biomass energy facility at the plant would qualify for support under the National Refit Scheme, a scheme set up to encourage alternative energy.
During the visit, he met Finsa representatives and interested parties to discuss the potential of redeveloping the factory for the production of renewable energy generated from biomass fuel. The potential for employment growth, should a biomass plant be developed in Scariff, was also discussed.
Deputy McNamara said although it was a preliminary meeting, it was very positive and he was pleased with the comments made by the minister that such a development would qualify for supports under the National Refit Scheme.
“It clearly makes the proposal more attractive to interested investors, representatives of whom also visited the plant,” Deputy McNamara said.
He explained that as Ireland moves away from reliance on costly imported fossil fuels and towards the development of renewable energy, the European-approved Refit Programme is designed to give developers an element of certainty, while building up renewable energy capacity.
“The Scariff site has a history of taking in large volume of logs, thinnings and woodchip and converting it into chipboard. A biomass plant would not be dissimilar but the output would be green electricity that would be exported to the grid. The plant under discussion would be relatively small scale, compared with the old chipboard factory. However, it would be a very positive step for employment and the economy of the Scariff area if it can be brought to fruition,” the Clare deputy said.
He added that, in particular, the huge amount of existing warehousing on the site would be very attractive to those for whom heat is essential to their manufacturing process.
“A district heating system could also be considered but because of the relatively small size of the urban area, it would not be viable without State and/or European support. I am committed to working hard on this project. Doing nothing is not an option,” Deputy McNamara stressed.
The minister also discussed the Government’s recent decision not to sell Coillte harvesting rights and, noting the huge forestry reserves in the area, he said the benefits that could accrue in the longer term from a reorganisation of Coillte and Bórd na Móna would be considerable.