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United Kingdom

Northern Ireland makes a start

Wind firm B9 Energy Services is helping to bring community wind development to Northern Ireland. The company is working with three community groups to build single turbine or cluster projects. According to the company's Sacha Workman, the time has now come to kick start development of small projects in which the local community had a financial stake.

B9 has already developed three 5 MW wind farms in the province, with more in the pipeline. Its small development approach has been helped by the existence in Northern Ireland of community development associations. These groups raise and distribute community grants for rural regeneration and employment.

The Keady Community Initiative in Armagh is already conducting a renewable energy survey of its area, funded by the Department of Economic Development, with B9 advising on wind. Now, after reporting back, B9 is waiting to see how many local farmers are interested in wind turbines on their land. The other two groups -- both in Tyrone -- responded to B9's invitation to put together projects which could bid into the second Northern Ireland Renewables Order (NI NFFO-2). The Mournderg Partnership in Castlederg opted for a cluster of five turbines on farmland, while the Ardboe Development Association near Cookstown had already earmarked a site on a disused airstrip beside the Ardboe business park. It now plans to put two turbines on the site.

Workman says both groups aim to use profits from electricity sales to fund rural regeneration and community schemes. In June they were waiting to hear if their projects have won NI NFFO-2 contracts. Results were expected at the end of the month.

"Even people who love wind turbines do not want whole landscapes of them," says Workman. "Large wind farms are good revenue generators and provide a lot of electricity to rural areas -- particularly in the west of the country," she adds. "But there is such a lot of interest in smaller schemes among people in rural areas wanting their own power. And there are these community association structures that provide an excellent opportunity for boosting community ownership."

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