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December aim for community’s energy masterplan

AN ENERGY masterplan highlighting challenges and opportunities facing the communities of Clooney, Maghera and Spancilhill is to be finalised in December.
The ambitious project to boost the production and use of renewable energy, as well as to reduce the consumption of fossil fuels, is being pioneered by the Clooney Spancilhill Community Development Association.
Funded by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the project hit some minor hitches due to the Covid-19 lockdowns, but is now back on track with a target completion date of December 21.
“An audit of our carbon use will feed into the plan,” explained Tom Larkin, chairperson of the association.
“The school was audited and a number of homes are being done at the moment,” said Tom.
“Eight different properties were chosen for audit, based on the years that they were built. That will help to create a good picture of where we are in terms of carbon usage and will form an important part of the masterplan.
“It will provide a picture of where we are as a community. We will be able to look at our carbon use in the home and our fuel usage and the audit will provide information about how many homes we should be aiming to retrofit. We’ll be in a better position to gauge what needs to be done.”
One of the first steps in setting up the project was the formation of a steering group on the environment.
That was followed by a successful application to the SEAI for funding of €10,000 and mentoring from SEAI and Clare Local Development Company (CLDC). The ongoing support and advice is crucial to the project.
“We have a long term relationship with the SEAI which will lead to more funding opportunities,” Tom added.
“The masterplan will be a 50-60 page document that will help us to plan what we need to do. I would hope that in 2022 we could start a programme of retrofitting and could apply for a bulk grant for it.”
The blueprint is also something that Tom believes will have wider uses.
“I think when our plan is finished, it could be valuable to a lot of other communities because it will be a guideline on energy usage in similar areas,” he said.
“The energy supply situation is serious at the moment and we’re hearing lately that the lights are barely being kept on because of the demand for power.
“There are serious problems that have to be addressed and all communities will have to think about that.”
The development association for Clooney-Spancilhill is also taking inspiration from other highly successful community energy projects like that in Templederry, outside Nenagh, where €1.1m is being raised annually from renewables.
The potential to generate renewable energy is one that is being readily embraced in East Clare.
“There is capacity for communities to begin to generate energy for themselves and we’re looking at things like smart meters,” he said.
“Even producing five megawatts locally could make a big difference. Big changes have to happen and they will happen. Change is hard, but ultimately it’s necessary.”
More information is available from Clooneyspancilhill.ie and by searching Clooney-Spancilhill Community Development on Facebook. The association can also be contacted on ClooneySpancilhillCDG@gmail.com.

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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