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.

Sharing time!

At the beginning of September, our three EVS volunteers – Ingrid from France, Bruno from Spain and Francesca, who had just arrived less than two weeks before from Italy – were invited to the house of one of GEAI’s directors, Janice, for lunch.

Janice grows organic vegetables, fruits and flowers in her garden and in her polytonal in Co. Leitrim. She went with the volunteers to pick some of her vegetables and encouraged them to go foraging as well for some apples and blackberries in order to cook lunch all together. They cooked a vegetarian curry and crumble that they happily shared together. A great way for them to get a feel of the local horticulture and a taste of the Irish hospitality!

As one of the volunteers – Ingrid – is Vegan, the whole meal was cooked plant-based. It was surprisingly easy to make a blackberry and apple crumble suitable for everyone by simply replacing the cow milk butter by a vegetable oil based butter. Very easy and tasty as well!

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