Grassroots fertilisation

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A new co-operative venture has been launched to champion the bottom-up development of wind energy in Ireland. Meithael na Gaoithe is a grassroots organisation representing farmers and community groups who are anxious to ensure that developing and marketing wind energy does not become the sole domain of big power generators and suppliers. Ireland's two major farmers' bodies -- the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) and the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA) were both instrumental in setting up Meitheal na Gaoithe.

Its main objective is to promote development of wind and other renewable energies in ways that allow the ordinary population of rural Ireland to retain the prime financial and social benefits. "It is trying to set the agenda so that wind energy is not solely dominated by big business, and so that a large part of the benefits will remain in rural areas," comments Declan Rice from Barrow Nore Suir Rural Development, which is administering the co-op during its early days. Support and mutual encouragement of members in the development of wind energy will form a major part of its agenda.

Another concern is to address misunderstandings about wind energy technology and turbine planning and siting. Tackling planning -- which is a major problem hampering wind energy deployment in Ireland -- is best done on a community basis, claims Rice. The co-op's third objective is to influence energy policy.

In the coming months, the co-op will be approaching likely partners in the community and voluntary sector. It intends to spread its net of membership as widely as possible.

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