Wind farming pioneer Pat Blount has developed at least three sizeable wind farms across Ireland and is now focused on the next evolution for renewable energy: efficient energy storage.
A great believer in how renewable energy can enrich local communities Blount, owner of Dunmore Wind Power and Wexford Solar, built his first wind farm utilising Alternative Energy Requirement (AER 6) Irish Government supports.
His subsequent two farms, which were also financed by Bank of Ireland, took advantage of the REFIT 1 (2006) and REFIT 2 (2012) government schemes.
“Within local communities where wind farms are owned and operated by small operators, especially where the landowner has a shareholding in the projects, income from those projects is being recycled five or six times within the country”
“I was an early founder of the Irish Wind Farmers Association (Meitheal na Gaoithe) which we set up following a meeting with the Irish Wind Energy Association, which was very keen to see Irish farmers involved in renewable energy. In the early days it was all about learning; how to go about planning, how to design a wind farm, how to interact with ESB and Eirgrid and the county councils.
“Bank of Ireland was very quick to recognise the potential early on for smaller wind farms driven by landowners themselves.
“Where I slotted in was that the landowners I had spoken to, instead of offering them rental income I convinced them to come on board as partners with zero rent. I took the financial risk of bringing the projects through planning and finance.
“There was great foresight shown by the bank to focus on supporting smaller, local developers. Some of those small developers have since grown into sizeable developers over the years.”
Powering the renewable energy future
Business partners, and now friends, Pat Blount (left) and PJ McCabe (centre) sit with PJ’s nephew Daniel Rundel (right) in Collon,. Pat Blount approached PJ and a neighbouring landowner to join him in a wind energy business venture. Pat agreed to take the financial risk and the landowner’s provided the site. They are now equal partners in the wind farm in the background. Photo: Robert Van Warden
According to Bank of Ireland’s recently published Responsible and Sustainable Business Report, to date, Bank of Ireland has provided financing associated with the development of at least 750 megawatts (MW) of renewable wind capacity across the island of Ireland. Going forward, the Group will continue to provide financing for renewable energy development in order to facilitate the achievement of national energy targets.
Blount says the impact on onshore wind farming in Ireland has been underappreciated. “If you were to think about the impact of wind farms in Ireland, they have brought the price of electricity down. When the wind is blowing the price of electricity is about 10% cheaper.
“On a global basis the impact of wind energy has been significant.
“And within local communities where wind farms are owned and operated by small operators, especially where the landowner has a shareholding in the projects, income from those projects is being recycled five or six times within the country.”
He said the partnership and support of Bank of Ireland was integral to the success of the creation of a vibrant wind farming community across the country.
“The bank allowed us to make strategic decisions that at the same time helped it to develop a deep understanding of the renewable energy industry,” Blount said.
Looking to the future Blount reasons that with more wind farms delivering power and with the onset of greater amounts of solar as well as offshore wind, stability and storage of supply will be essential.
To this end he is planning to deploy major battery projects capable of storing tens of megawatts of renewable energy at a time as well as synchronous compensators that can manage hundreds of megawatts a time to ensure stability of electricity supply across the grid.
“If for any reason there is a drop-off in power, these systems will deliver stability to the grid.”
Blount, who left school at 15 and did an apprenticeship as a fitter, describes himself as an entrepreneur who not driven by money but by the excitement of a challenge.
“A lot of entrepreneurs that I know aren’t driven by money. They are driven by their passion for a project and getting it done. I suppose I have the personal tenacity and drive to see projects through to fruition.”
Main image at top: Pat Blount standing inside a wind turbine. Photo: Robert Van Warden