Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd has visited key bioenergy sites in County Tipperary,, including Thurles Leisure Centre.
The Junior Minister chose to visit Tipperary as the county currently spends €1.1m on local fuel to heat major sites. It previously would have spent €2.4m on imported oil. Visits were made to Tipp Wood Chip and Thurles Leisure Centre, now heated by wood chip.
Deputy O’Dowd was shown around Tipp Wood Chip, which supplies many of the local biomass boilers. Paul Kenny, CEO of Tipperary Energy Agency, spoke about the jobs potential in the sector. Forty-six local jobs are supported by biomass heat in Tipperary. Nationally, according to IrBEA (Irish BioEnergy Association), 3,600 could be created by biomass in Ireland if 2020 targets are met.
At Thurles Leisure Centre, Deputy O’Dowd saw the boiler in operation. Aided by Tipperary Energy Agency the 500kW biomass boiler was installed in late 2012. As a result, the pool is saving €68,000 in energy costs per annum. Similar boilers are in use in five other sites in the county. The switch to biomass at these sites has seen 750,000 litres of oil displaced in 2013.
Mr Kenny said: “Tipperary has proven that we can successfully move from imported fossil fuels to sustainable local fuels and as a result create local jobs and save millions. The annual local economic benefit of heating just one site with wood chip is worth €210,000 per annum to the local economy in Tipperary”.
Speaking in Thurles, Deputy O’Dowd said: “From what I’ve seen, Tipperary is leading the way with regards to biomass. It’s fantastic to see an organised and coordinated approach from start to finish, from suppliers to heating community facilities such as Thurles Leisure Centre”.