Bord na Móna’s Powergen business is proposing to develop a new wind farm at its Oweninny site in Bellacorick County Mayo. The proposed wind farm site is located in North Mayo, west of Crossmolina and east of Bangor Erris, just north of the N59 road. The site comprises some 50 km2 and was formerly utilised for peat harvesting by Bord na Móna to provide fuel for the former ESB Bellacorick peat fired power station. All the site lands are owned by Bord na Móna and comprise cutaway and cutover bog land.
Peat production at Oweninny commenced in the 1950s to supply the ESB peat fired power station and peat deliveries ceased in 2005. The power station has also ceased operation and has been fully decommissioned. The country’s first commercial wind farm was established at the site at Bellacorick in Co. Mayo in 1992.
Part of the project is being developed through a joint venture with ESB and a joint venture company, Oweninny Power Limited (OPL), has been set up for this purpose. The development will be called Oweninny Wind Farm after the river that flows around the boundary of part of the site.
A new planning application for the site was made to An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) procedure in 2013. The new proposed development is equivalent in terms of installed capacity to the development granted permission by An Bord Pleanála in 2003 and differs primarily only in terms of the number of turbines (decreased from 180 to 112) and turbine size (overall dimension from foundation to blade tip increased from 100m to 176m). These changes are to accommodate what are now essentially industry standard turbine models and reflect the technological advances that continue to occur in wind turbine design. An oral hearing was held by An Bord Pleanála in April/May 2014, and in May 2015 An Bord Pleanála sought further information on the project. OPL responded to this request for information in October 2015.
The planning application was preceded by extensive public consultation in the hinterland of the site with a proposed community benefit scheme included as part of the planning application. The project is divided into three phases with each phase expected to create in excess of 100 jobs during construction. The fully implemented project is expected to create up to 20 long term jobs in operation and maintenance of the facility. The proposed project includes a visitor centre as part of the farm to display the local heritage of industrial scale peat production, wind energy technology and the evolution of habitats on site resulting from bog rehabilitation works carried out by Bord na Móna following the cessation of peat operations. It is intended to facilitate the public use of the internal roadways for recreation and amenity. Local communities will also benefit from additional rates paid to the Local Authority which support the provision of local services.
The project has received Grid Connection Offers from EirGrid. When operational, the fully implemented farm will generate enough electricity to supply the needs of approximately 185,000 homes.