Happy summer days

Beach

It’s with this incredible summer that us, GEAI volunteers, can enjoy Ireland!

During the heatwave in June and July, we could enjoy the beach and try to swim in the (cold) North Atlantic Ocean, what an experience!

Dublin, Donegal, Athlone, Galway, Cork, Cliffs of Moher, ring of Kerry and Dingle, Northern Ireland… We visited more things in Ireland in 3 months than in 1 year in our own countries. But this country is so fascinating! All parts of Ireland are unique, and the landscapes are so different under the sun.

Mohill castleThanks to this very nice weather, we could enjoy the beauties of Eire and all their charm in the best way.

At the end of July, Drumshanbo for one week became the place to be in County Leitrim with the Joe Mooney Summer School. This festival attracts hundreds of people from all around the world (United Kingdom, Europe, Canada, USA…). The programme included set dancing lessons and musical instruments tuition (fiddle, harp, guitar, flute, accordion, etc.)  concerts, céilís and recitals.

All the pubs hosted music sessions every day. There were also concerts every evening in the Lough Allen Hotel, Mayflower Hall or in other places in the town. What an amazing week! The quiet Drumshanbo was full of people, two, sometimes three or more music sessions in each pub, people everywhere! And such good musicians! We even saw people playing music in the streets.

Alas, the weather has changed and the rain has returned, for now anyway.  The farmers are pleased but we hope that the summer is not over for us!

A two-day trip to the Wild Atlantic Coast

EVS is a fantastic opportunity to travel. As new volunteers we cannot wait to leave and visit Ireland. This is a country that offers a heterogeneous variety of fantastic places to discover. So we dedicate a weekend to the Wild Atlantic Coast in order to reach some of the highest areas of Ireland. For the occasion, we met two friends of Francesca, EVS volunteers in Kilkenny. So in five we ventured along the winding Irish roads.

We left Drumshanbo on Saturday and reached Donegal via Sligo. Donegal is a small tourist town on the Atlantic Ocean. There we visited the castle and took a short walk to the main street via the main square, until we reached the cemetery with an ocean view. We could not stop too much because still at the beginning of the journey – moreover the city center is not very big – that’s why we decided to leave.

Got back to the road we took the N15 towards Letterkenny. It was a very long journey and our breaks were very short because the place to be reached was still far away. After Letterkenny we had to reach Buncrana, Clonmany and then Leenan. There we rented a typical Irish cottage for the night.

We arrived just for dinner… what a pity though because we did not have much time to go around. And the weather was not the best! After a quick Fish & Chips we took advantage of the evening light to reach the Atlantic Ocean on Pollan Bay. The beach in the evening is very charming, and the atmosphere is peaceful and magical at the same time.

 

Tired but really happy we went to bed… that night a really strong wind blew! The following morning we left to reach Fanad Head. It is not the most northerly point of Ireland, but it is close. We traveled along the road around Lake Drongaw Lough and the entire cove, passing through a Viking landscape. In front of our eyes, desolate lands and cliffs overlooking the sea formed a breathtaking view.

The lighthouse on the cliff is really charming. We had a sack lunch sitting on the cliff, and for us it is not so every day! The trip was not over yet because we wanted to visit the Glenveagh National Park. Unfortunately, arrived at the park it started to rain but we decided to make a short stop the same. A minibus took us from the park entrance to the castle along the Lough Beagh lake. It seemed to be in a movie: a journey into another journey. Arriving at the castle we decided to visit the garden and look at the castle from the outside. We did not have time to enter. Once we reach the car, we leave again: this time we know that there will be no other stops. We had to reach Sligo in time because Francesca’s friends had to go back to Kilkenny by train.

It was a fantastic experience and in two days we got to know part of Ireland. The trip was a bit tiring because we spent a lot of time in the car. We were ready for the next adventure and a new day of work at GEAI!

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.

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.

Energy Challenges and Solutions Conference

Last Thursday, 30th November 2017, a Conference on Current and Future Policy Energy Challenges and Solutions organised by Leitrim County Council was hosted at The Dock Arts Centre. The event gave good insights on the ongoing EU-funded SECURE Project – Smart Energy Communities, part of the Northern Periphery and Artic Programme 2014-2020, along with possible solutions needed for the energy transition in Ireland.

The conference kicked off with an introduction and welcome by Mr. Shane Tiernan of Leitrim County Council, followed by speakers such as Leo Strawbridge, Niall Kiernan or the DCCAE Principal Strategic Energy Policy, Martin Finucane. An explanation was given on the challenges that Ireland is facing and will continue to face over the next years as well as the wide range of technology we have at our disposal to fight against the climate change.

The talks included some international partners working on the SECURE project such as Kaija Saramäki (University of Applied Sciences, Finland) and Emma Norton (Nova Scotia, Canada). They shared with us policy energy measures in some regions around the world as examples of potential solutions to implement in the current Irish Energy System.

Illustration 1: Energy secure communities

Our volunteers Francesca (Italy) and Bruno (Spain) attended the event as GEAI delegation.  Paul Mc Nama from IT Sligo also gave a presentation on the NECS Project (Northwest Energy Community Start-up) carried out by IT Sligo and Good Energies Alliance Ireland in six local communities in Co Leitrim, Sligo and Donegal. The project was shown as an example of community engagement through activities such as door-to-door energy surveys, seminars and the World Café which stimulated interesting discussions. During the coffee break the volunteers had the opportunity to chat with different attendees and share views and opinions on the presented project.

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