LOCAL farmers are propelling wind power through leasing their land for the development of Northern Ireland’s first wind energy co-operative – Drumlin Wind Energy Co-op – and are calling on the rest of the agri-sector to invest in and benefit from this democratic venture.
Drumlin Wind Energy Co-operative has launched a public share offer and is aiming to raise up to £3.4m to build five 250KW single wind turbines across five sites in Northern Ireland including Pomeroy, Kells, Larne and Ballyclare. The innovative model allows local people to take direct ownership of renewable energy, deriving both financial and environmental benefits from the scheme. Individuals, businesses and organisations may invest between £250 and £20,000 in the shares, which are eligible for Enterprise Investment Tax Relief at 30%, and will receive an attractive return on their investment averaging approximately 7% – 10% per annum over a 20 year period. The share offer period ends on 21st September 2012.
Recent research from Barclays claims that one third of UK farmers are planning to invest in renewables in the next two years as a form of diversification to combat rising energy costs. Rodney Arbuckle, a Drumlin Co-op director and dairy and beef farmer from Ballymena is just one of the farmers who is diversifying and has leased his land for the scheme. Rodney believes that Northern Ireland’s windy climate makes it ideal for generating renewable energy resources for the benefit of local communities and investors alike.
He added: “The attraction of the Drumlin Wind Energy Co-operative is that it’s a small scale project that requires only one turbine per site and won’t interfere with the use of the land for farming while providing a secondary income. We had the land available but also had a genuine interest in sustainable technology. With easy access to the electricity grid due to pylons carrying overhead cabling on our land it made sense to become involved in the project.
“Another farmer providing land for the scheme is Cormac Clarke from Pomeroy. He said: “The scheme is an ethical and democratic venture that allows Northen Ireland people to the shareholders and take ownership of local green energy while receiving a sound return on their investment. I would encourage anyone interested in investing in the scheme to visit www.drumlin.coop or call 0845 373 3612.”
The project has been created by local company NRG Solutions in partnership with Cumbria-based social enterprise Energy4All. Similar schemes have enjoyed considerable success in the UK over the past number of years, where Energy4All has been involved in setting up seven community wind co-operatives owned by over 7,000 investors and together creating a total of 16MW of renewable energy generating capacity. The co-operative model is driven by principles of fairness, democracy and sustainability, and offers a new and viable way of doing business in Northern Ireland.