Green energy export plan unveiled
Bord na Mona has unveiled a billion euro energy export plan to turn bogs across Offaly and Kildare into wind farms.
The company said it will use 20,000 hectares of land it holds to sell electricity to the UK and Europe - enough to power one million homes.
It said the development will see 3,000 jobs created during seven years of construction and 200 maintenance and operations jobs when the scheme is up and running in 2020.
A series of separate cutaway bogs across east Offaly and west Kildare are to be used for the turbines.
Pat Rabbitte, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, said the plan showed peatlands which are far away from concentrations of people can be a suitable location for wind power.
"I have been working hard with my colleagues in the British Government to develop a framework to allow for exports of green energy to Britain and beyond," he said.
"I am very pleased that a state company like Bord na Mona is capitalising on its assets and its expertise and the demand for clean green energy for the benefit of the Irish people."
The plan is billed as Bord na Mona's clean energy hub and aims to supply 2GW of electricity - enough to power one million homes - direct into the British and mainland European energy market.
Bord na Mona has vowed to listen to concerns of communities across the Midlands starting in the next few weeks.
The scheme is destined for opposition as plans by other energy companies to exploit the region for wind farms are facing increasing objections from land owners, residents of isolated housing and lobby groups which reject wind as a viable energy alternative.
Two companies - Element Power and Mainstream - are already seeking the green light to erect 1,150 giant turbines across Offaly, Laois, Kildare, Meath and Westmeath with the aim to export electricity to the UK.
Bord na Mona said it will demonstrate how jobs will be created in its scheme and also offer a community benefit package which will include new walking trails, biodiverse parklands and amenity lands.
Gabriel D'Arcy, the company's chief executive, said the plan was about getting the highest return from natural resources.
"We intend to work with local communities and everyone in the region to secure what we intend will be a sustainable future for the Midlands built on the export of surplus renewable energy," he said.
The energy hub plan was unveiled at the launch of a new 40MW wind farm development at Bruckana on Bord na Mona's cutaway peatland on the Laois, Kilkenny, Tipperary borders.
It has 14 wind turbines and will supply 23,000 homes.
Chairman John Horgan said: "Wind farms are innovative and profitable ways of continuing our mandate to extract maximum economic and social value from the lands we hold in trust for the benefit of all people of Ireland."
Bord na Mona will seek planning approval in early 2015.
It will cover swathes of bog land east and south of Edenderry through the Bog of Allen to north of Portarlington and further north towards Daingean and Kinnegad.
The plan is for 600 turbines spread across the bogland. They will be 100m in height from base to the hub and 156m to the tip of a blade.