Generating a brighter future for Mullingar
Introduction to the Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community
The Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) has a powerful story to tell about the future of Mullingar.
It starts with the challenge that faces us all: how can we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and transition to renewable sources of energy while benefiting the whole community economically, socially and environmentally?
The Mullingar SEC is rising to that challenge and it has a plan.
Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) was formed in 2018, supported by the Mullingar Chamber of Commerce, with the objective of encouraging the local community to become more energy efficient and to source renewable energy where possible. More information see: https://mullingarsec.ie
The network of Sustainable Energy Communities, supported by SEAI, is growing in County Westmeath, and includes the Columb Barracks SEC (also in Mullingar), Castlepollard SEC, and others which have demonstrated significant and widespread community interest in the utilisation of local natural resources in a sustainable way.
Mullingar Energy Audit
With funding secured from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), the Mullingar SEC has commissioned an energy audit of Mullingar which is being undertaken by energy consultants Plan Energy. The audit, which will be completed during the summer, will provide valuable insights into how Mullingar can become more energy efficient over the coming years.
As part of the Energy Audit project, Mullingar SEC is also offering free energy audits for home owners and business owners in the town so they can begin their journey towards greater energy efficiency. For more information on how to avail of an energy audit of your home or business premises, check out the Mullingar SEC website.
In late 2021, Mullingar was chosen by Westmeath County Council as the county’s Decarbonising Zone. Under the Government Climate Action Plan 2019, each Local Authority in the country was charged with identifying one Decarbonising Zone. A Decarbonising Zone (DZ) is defined as a spatial area in which a range of climate mitigation, adaptation and biodiversity measures and action owners are identified to address local low carbon energy, greenhouse gas emissions and climate needs to contribute to national climate action targets.
Mullingar Community Solar Park
To address this challenge, the Mullingar SEC is currently exploring the feasibility of a 5MW 100% community-owned solar park which could be located on the former municipal land-fill site at Marlinstown, to the north of the town. A 5MW solar farm could potentially provide power to approximately 3,250 homes.
The project, which is being explored with support from Community Power, Mullingar Chamber of Commerce and in consultation with Westmeath County Council, is at the very early stage of development and further steps will include testing its feasibility, consulting widely with the local community, seeking planning approval and securing the necessary funding to develop it. Also, discussions are ongoing with the ESB on the future connection of a solar park at this site to the National Grid.
If the project is successful, it will be Westmeath’s first 100% community-owned renewable energy project. Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community (SEC), says that it will represent a huge step forward for Mullingar in securing its energy future and making a very significant contribution towards lowering the town’s carbon footprint. Given the current volatility in the global fossil fuel market, energy independence is more important than ever, and the Mullingar SEC believes that the most secure and most sustainable future for energy in Ireland lies in renewables.
In order to progress the solar park project, Mullingar SEC will establish an Energy Co-op in the coming months, shares in which will be available to purchase by any member of the local community, with dividends paid, ensuring that all net profits from the solar park remain in the local community and resulting in potential cost savings by local energy users.
The Mullingar SEC was inspired by a number of other communities across Ireland who have already begun to take steps to take control of their own energy futures. If the project goes ahead, the solar park will provide renewable electricity for Mullingar as well as employment and educational opportunities. There may also be opportunities for recreational and biodiversity spaces as part of the project.
The SEC is liaising closely with Westmeath County Council who are currently considering the next stages in the development of the project, including planning permission. It is expected that more detailed proposals for the project will be shared by the Mullingar SEC later in the year and that close consultation with the local community around the site will be an important feature of this work.
Cllr. Hazel Smyth, Chairperson of the Mullingar Sustainable Energy Community, has said:
“This is a very exciting first step towards generating a brighter future for Mullingar and Westmeath. While there is a long way to go with the project, a 5MW community-owned solar farm is a win-win scenario: it’s great for the economy of the town and it’s great for the environment. It will also secure the energy future of the town for years to come.”