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!
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.
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.