GEAI field trip to Belmullet, Co. Mayo

Solar PVs on Teach Greannai community centre’s rooftop

What an interesting day we had in Belmullet!  Recently, some of us had a really interesting guided tour on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Rural Communities organised by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) in partnership with IT Sligo and the Western Development Commission.

 

 

The purpose of the tour was to showcase the use of renewable energy technologies in rural areas adopted with the help of SEAI grants.  During the day, it also showcased the wonderful landscape of the area and the enthusiasm of the people!

Dr. Orla Nic Suibhne explaining the micro-grid system

The visit began in an Enterprise Centre at  Eachléim Udaras na Gaeltacha to see a demonstration on site of a micro-grid system. Forty-four south-facing  solar photovoltaic panels  (PVs), produce 11kW electricity in direct current (DC).  These are connected to transformers which convert the electricity into alternating current (AC), used by the building. In addition, there is battery storage system of 5-40 Kw/h and 3 smart electrical thermal storage units. The whole building management system is monitored remotely. The solar PVs were installed in 2015 and have produced a total of 23,000 Kw/h since then.

Afterwards, we went to the Community Hall which has been upgraded with two air to water heat pumps, internal and attic insulation, new windows and doors besides a 7Kw east-west solar PV array.

A very interesting part of the tour brought us to Belderra Strand, a stunning sandy beach, where the Atlantic Marine Energy Test Site is being developed by SEAI. The goal is to test full-scale wave energy converters which will be connected to an onshore substation.

GEAI volunteers looking at a solar PVs array

In addition to that, we also visited the Irish Wheelchair Association, where another array of 1Kw PVs is fully accessible to people in wheelchairs,  Teach Greannai, a Community centre, and Bangor Hall both of which were fully upgraded with SEAI interventions. We also had the chance to test drive an electric van!

It was a very insightful and informative day.  Dr. Orla Nic Suibhne, our brilliant tour guide, gave us lots of interesting information about renewable energy technologies and what’s available in terms of SEAI grants for householders, charities and community groups.

Renewable energies are a great opportunity for rural Ireland and we have all the technologies available to move away from a fossil-based economy.

SPEAKING AT THE UN ON LEITRIM’S CAMPAIGN AGAINST FRACKING

Me with Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

With Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason

 

I had the honour of giving a talk on the role of women in our Campaign against Fracking at a UN event in New York on 14th March.  The event was organised by the Mining Group of the Commission on the Status of Women and was part of the United Nations two-week conference focusing on the empowerment of rural women globally.  I was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, moderator of the event.

I also had the honour of meeting our Ambassador to UN, Geraldine Byrne Nason and President Mary Robinson.

In my talk, I focused on the stages the campaign went through, starting in 2011 at kitchen meetings, the showing of “Gasland”, protests, public meetings, social media campaigns and political lobbying, resulting in our wonderful ban on fracking. According to the organisers, the Irish campaign against fracking can act as a template for campaigns globally.

Because of the theme of the conference, I focussed mainly on the role that women played in the campaign.  It was only when looking back at the entire campaign that I realised how much women had contributed.  This is not to say that men did not play an important part (Tony McLoughlin and Eddie Mitchell for example), but from the start of the campaign, women were to the fore of the action – whether organising meetings or protests, making speeches, giving presentations, researching, lobbying, tweeting or emailing.  In fact, this campaign had the side-effect of empowering local rural women to make a stand against something they felt strongly about and to feel that they could make a difference.  Up to now, this was not fully acknowledged and I was very happy to emphasise the role that they played.

Fracking ban
June 2017: Government bans fracking!

It was also wonderful to have the opportunity to tell the world of our campaign starting in rural Leitrim that gained such momentum that it influenced our Government to agree unanimously to ban fracking in Ireland.

We now have one of the strongest bans in the world; to remind you, the wording is as follows:

“Notwithstanding anything in this Act or any other enactment or rule of law, it shall not be lawful for a person to search for, get, raise, take, carry away or work petroleum by means of hydraulic fracturing.”

And you can’t get any stronger than that!

Link to presentation: Campaign against Fracking in Ireland

Aedín McLoughlin, GEAI Director

 

GEAI field trip to Cloughjordan, the eco-village

Entrance of the eco-village

A few weeks ago a group of GEAI volunteers paid a two-day visit at Ireland’s only eco-village situated at the heart of Cloughjordan, a small town in County Tipperary.
Upon our midnight  arrival  we decided to grab a drink in one of the local pubs and something to eat at the only place we could find open at midnight. Afterwards, we spent the night at the Django Hostel, where we received a warm welcome from Pa, the hostel’s manager.
The next day, two of us took part in a workshop about “The Art of Facilitation” organised by Cultivate whilst the rest of the group took the opportunity to explore the village and its surroundings accompanied by a local EVS Volunteer.

Cloughjordan’s eco-village is a unique place in Ireland. The project is aimed at creating modern sustainable living. There are currently 130 low-energy houses of different styles, ranging from small apartments and large detached houses, built accordingly to high ecological standards which combine energy efficiency design with local natural building materials.
Moreover, residents can benefit from the community heating system totally supplied by renewable energies such as woodchip boilers and solar panels.

Cloughjordan community garden

This residential area is surrounded by community gardens and community or personal allotments available for food production. Besides, the eco-village also comprised about 50 acres of woodland and farmland. There is also a plantation zone which includes an area dedicated to tree nursery. While walking around the land it is also possible to visit the organic farm with sheep, pigs, cows and fields for crop production.
Reducing the carbon footprint is not just about energy efficiency but also transportation. For this reason, a pilot car-sharing initiative has been put in place amongst residents. In addition, the village is located within walking distance from the local train station of Cloughjordan.

Compost area

The eco-village is also an excellent centre of education for sustainable living. Workshops, courses, seminars and events about several topics are hosted regularly in Cloughjordan. Walking around the village you also come across several panels with useful and interesting information,  most of which have educational purposes, for example, there is an area used for composting where the whole process is explained is a simple way through colourful images. This is suitable not only for children but also for adults interested in learning how to correctly create their own compost.

The eco-village also organises “Experience day” tours twice a month where it is possible to walk around the village, have lunch while meeting members of the community.

Those two days were inspiring for all of us. We appreciated the strong sense of community engagement and cooperation surrounding the Cloughjordan eco-village project and learnt that it is truly possible to live our lives in a sustainable way.

Successful Irish anti-fracking campaign discussed at U.N. event in New York

UN flag

Dr. Aedín McLoughlin, Director of Good Energies Alliance Ireland, will speak before the United Nation’s 62 nd Conference on the Status of Women on Wednesday, March 14th as part of a session on the global resistance to fracking and its infrastructure. Aedín will be among five panellists to talk about “Frontline Leadership: Rural Women in the Anti-Fracking Movement.” The other four panellists will be Anna Klein, Mining in Haiti Project, Julia Walsh, Campaign Director Frack Action, Chris Schimmoeller, Anti-fracking activist and Jeanne Shenandoah, an elder from the Onondaga Nation.

The priority theme of this year’s Conference on the Status of Women and Girls is the challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. The review theme is the participation in and access of women to the media.

“I am very honoured to be asked to speak at this important side event associated with the annual U.N. conference seeking solutions to problems facing women and girls around the world,” said McLoughlin. “The story of our successful campaign against fracking has yet to be told and this is the perfect opportunity to not only tell that story but also to honour the vital role that women played throughout the campaign in Ireland. We can be proud – Irish women rose to the challenge of thethreat of fracking in so many ways and now we can describe to the world how the campaign was successful, with a complete ban on fracking in Ireland signed into law in July 2017.”

McLoughlin was invited to speak by Rev Debbra Gill, who is moderating the event. Rev Gill represents United Religions Initiative on the Mining Working Group, a coalition of NGOs that advocates at the United Nations for human and environmental rights as related to extractive
industries.

Dr. Aedin McLoughlin, GEAI spokeperson

“Fracking is only one of the global extractive industries that are laying waste to places where people live, polluting their air, their water and their health,” concluded McLoughlin. “Mining for precious metals or rare elements also has a long history of polluted air, rivers and lakes, and devastated and exploited communities. We in Ireland can give examples of how rural women achieved roles of leadership in our campaign against fracking; hopefully, this will contribute to empowering others around the world to insist on their rights to clean air and water and a safe environment.”

Climate Change “not a priority for the North and Western Regional Assembly”

Our recent submission to the NWRA concerning their Regional Spatial Strategy, has been hard-hitting concerning the report’s lack of emphasis of Climate Change and the urgency of responding to it.

Once again, serious climate change commitments are lacking at regional as well as national levels. Climate change is real and is happening right now and every delay or reticence in adopting further policies to cope with it will result in huge economic and financial losses for the Irish economy. Moreover, there seems to be a lack of clear vision regarding the concept of “sustainability” throughout the whole Strategy as neither indications nor goals and targets are provided on how to achieve it.

Ireland North and Western Region (Ph. NWRA issue paper)

We at GEAI were responding to a Public Consultation on the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategy (RSES) launched by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly in December 2017. The RSES Strategy aims at “reaching a shared understanding about regional economic development processes […] and promoting innovative, competitive and a productive region”. In our view, the document fails in this aim as it fails to recognise the fact that Climate change is a serious threat to Ireland’s North and Western Region and adaptation is an immediate requirement.

Its view is that “the transition (to a low carbon economy) will require a cultural step change in the approach to Green Energy Development”. However, it does not include a roadmap to such cultural change and, indeed, relegates climate action to just one section of the report.

What is not realised is that this transition includes a big opportunity now to unlock the renewable energy potential of the Northern and Western Region. We propose a vision of the Region becoming a self-sustaining macro-generator of electricity, producing a significant proportion of the nation’s total need for power. This can only happen through community energy ownership and Government support for microgeneration. As a first step towards achieving this vision, it is vital that Government initiates immediately a scheme for fair feed-in tariffs for all electricity generation from 50 watts to 6 megawatts.

Awareness raising is key to undertaking such a cultural change. We therefore suggest to create and implement a Climate Change & Renewable Energy Awareness Programme to boost behavioural change.

Read our full submission

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