Construction of the new renewable power plant on the site of the former Asahi textile plant near Killala is expected to begin in November following the withdrawal of an appeal by An Taisce.The withdrawal of the appeal which was confirmed last week leaves the way open for the building of a 50MW biomass-fired power station on the old Asahi site located at Killala Business Park. The construction phase of the project is expected to begin in November with 200 construction workers expected to be employed during the course of the two year construction period. Once it is commissioned the plant is expected to employ 26 full-time workers with 75 auxillary jobs and up to 120 people employed in the harvesting and transportion of the biomass.It was confirmed last Thursday by Mr Charles Stanley Smith, Chairman of An Taisce, that following discussions with the developer, Mayo Renewable Power, the appeal had been withdrawn.
Mayo County Council had originally granted permission for the ambitious project at the end of May subject to some 84 conditions. The permission allowed the building of a 50MW biomass-fired power station on the old Asahi site located at Killala Business Park. During its height, the Asahi plant employed 330 people before closing in 1997.
Seán Hannick, Chairman of Council for the West and a Killala businessman told The Mayo News that he welcomed An Taisce’s change of heart and was ‘very hopeful’ that another 200 jobs could be created within five years of the plant commencing operation.
“It is good news that the project is going to go ahead and that jobs which are badly needed will be created. I am hopeful that it will bring other jobs as well and will create a couple of hundred jobs within five years with companies using the steam from the power plant. That should bring us back to the Asahi days again,” he said.
An open day is planned for the end of the month with local sub contractors and farmers invited to attend. Mr Hannick explained that the developers hope to use as many local construction workers as possible during the construction phase.
Following the initial objection by An Taisce, meetings and discussions between the developer, An Taisce and other parties took place with an compromise reached between the parties.
Mr Smith said the developer had agreed to lodge documents with Mayo County Council which would ensure sustainability of a local source of biomass under the agreement. The issue of the local sourcing of the biomass lay at the heart of An Taisce’s objection.
The power plant is expected to need approximately 400,000 tonnes of biomass to fuel the station and Mr Hannick said they were confident that they get enough farmers within 100km of the plant to harvest and supply the biomass.
He said the Western Development Commission and An Teagasc have done a lot of work on the issue and is confident farmers in the locality will avail of the opportunity to grow biomass and supply the plant. The initial crop of biomass is expected to take three years to harvest with the initial biomass to be imported from the US and Europe.
The withdrawal of An Taisce’s objection was welcomed by local representatives who were scathing of the original decision to object to the plant. Killala-based county councillor Jarlath Munnelly welcomed the decision of An Taisce to withdraw its appeal and said many different agencies deserve credit for the role they played in bringing the project this far.
“I think the Western Development Commission have done enormous work on the background work on sustainable energy, which has been key to this project. Also Mayo County Council’s decision to draw up a Renewable Energy Strategy has proven to be a very far reaching idea, which also assisted this project.”
Cllr Munnelly also remembered the work of the people who brought this project together in the first place, including the late former Fine Gael TD Myles Staunton, who died only last week.
“Great credit goes to the promoters of this project who kept faith with this project from the start, right through times when it looked like this project would never happen. And in a special way, I’d like to acknowledge the important role played by the late, very great Myles Staunton. I can say, without contradiction, that without Myles, this project would never have happened.”
Ballina based TD, Michelle Mulherin said is a welcome relief that sanity has prevailed in this case.