SSE Renewables, Ireland’s leading developer, owner, and operator of renewable energy has donated over €1 million to almost 400 local charities and community groups across Ireland in the last year, once again demonstrating the company’s ongoing commitment to supporting the economic and social wellbeing of those local communities which host its wind farms.
The contribution is revealed in SSE Renewables’ 2022/23 Community Investment Review for Ireland, which has been published today.
In total SSE Renewables has invested €1.1 million this year from its wind farms into 382 community-based projects across the country. The funding generated for the SSE Renewables Community Fund comes from revenues earned by its wind farms across Ireland, including the Galway Wind Park Community Fund, which is Ireland’s largest community benefit fund. This year’s €1.1 million investment contribution is one of the largest-ever annual investments made by SSE Renewables into local communities from its wind farms.
SSE Renewables’ funding helps support local groups, sports organisations and schools among others in rural Irish communities to develop their facilities with energy efficiency and sustainability upgrades as well as social and environmental projects that enable community development.
The SSE Renewables’ 2022/23 Community Investment Review marks 20 years of wind powered funding by the company into Irish communities. Since it first launched its Community Fund programme in 2003, SSE Renewables has invested over €11.4 million into almost 4,500 community-based projects located closest to its wind farms. This funding is awarded to community groups near wind farms located in Cork, Cavan, Donegal, Wexford, Monaghan, Sligo, Limerick, Kerry, Tipperary and Galway.
Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Renewables said: “With the climate emergency and energy security at the top of the agenda, we’re proud at SSE Renewables to be playing our part in helping Ireland’s transition to renewable power. In the last year we’ve continued to produce huge amounts from our onshore wind farms across Ireland, while progressing the next wave of industry leading projects, both onshore and offshore.
“We recognise that an integral part of a just transition is sharing value with the local communities in which we operate. We’re committed to investing to ensure Irish communities have what they need now and for the future. That’s why in the last year SSE Renewables has donated over €1 million to local projects to invest in issues as diverse as inclusive sport to biodiversity centres. In doing so, we’re aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring the investments we make into local communities help deliver affordable and clean energy, take climate action to reduce emissions, and support the creation of sustainable cities and communities.
“As we build more renewable assets across Ireland, we’re ensuring the country benefits from local, clean, resilient energy with a commitment to local supply chains to boost our economy. As part of this commitment, we’ll collaborate with communities to help them achieve their ambitions and support thriving, robust and prosperous communities across Ireland.”
In addition to providing funding support to local groups and organisations, this year’s Community Investment Review details the education funding support SSE Renewables is providing to young people from its ongoing scholarship programme. In the last year, the Galway Wind Park Scholarship Fund has provided just over €50,000 in scholarships for 16 young students who live near Ireland’s largest wind farm and wish to attend their third level college courses of choice. This brings the total number of young scholars supported financially by the Galway Wind Park Scholarship since it was launched in 2019 to just over 80.
Alongside funding contributions across local communities, 2022/23 has been a year of growth and development for SSE Renewables’ Community Funds. In County Donegal the company worked with development partner FuturEnergy Ireland to undertake an extensive community consultation with local representatives and community members in the design and key priorities of a new community fund for the Lenalea Wind Farm, which is due to open next year.
This year also saw a significant increase in applications from communities across Ireland looking for measures and projects designed to support the delivery of low carbon infrastructure in rural areas, and so support a greener future and tackle the climate emergency.
In County Galway, €110,000 was presented to Comhairle Ceantar na nOileán from Galway Wind Park to establish the Low Carbon and Sustainability Centre of Excellence in Casla. The centre is creating new sustainable economic opportunities to support the economic, social, and environmental sustainability of the region by supporting the re-skilling of workers and supporting homeowners to complete retrofit improvements. The centre is providing skills training in emerging retrofit technologies including solar PV, external wall insulation and ventilation. The project plans to train 280 professionals per annum and support the energy improvement of up to 10,000 local homes.
Patrick McHugh, Director of Comhairle Ceantar na nOileán, said: “In Galway, the waiting list for energy efficient home upgrades is nearly two years. Through the development of this training centre in Galway, timeframes for upgrades will be reduced with the project having the potential to impact over 30,000 individuals and in excess of 10,000 homes, so contributing towards Ireland’s net zero goal.”
In the community of Bunnoe, County Cavan, where the next nearest publicly available electric vehicle (EV) charging point is over 10km away, SSE Renewables’ funding totalling €2,500 has supported the installation of a first-ever EV charger at the Bunnoe Community Enterprise Centre. Visitors to the community centre, GAA club and football club can now charge their electric vehicles while visiting the local amenities.
Patsy Fitzpatrick, Volunteer at Bunnoe Community Enterprise Centre, said: “In a rural area like Bunnoe, people have to travel at least 10km to access an EV charging point. The provision of this charger has improved efficiency and reduced cost for our locals, it has attracted people to the area to avail of the charger and use other resources whilst waiting, and most importantly it demonstrates our commitment and support towards achieving net zero.”
SSE Renewables will continue to support Ireland’s green recovery and it hopes to continue the same level of successful support to communities in the coming year. In the coming year it will continue public consultation on the design and priorities for a community fund for Yellow River Wind Farm in Rhode, County Offaly, which it is currently constructing.
In the offshore wind energy space, SSE Renewables is continuing to develop plans for Ireland’s 2030 offshore targets, including delivery of its flagship Irish offshore wind project, the 800MW Arklow Bank Wind Park II which is expected to generate a community benefit fund of around €6m annually should it become operational before the end of the decade.
You can read the SSE Renewables 2022/23 Community Investment Review here.