Wind farms go abroad for funds

SMALL wind farm projects say they are being forced to go abroad for finance as they are being refused loans by Irish banks who say they can’t access funding due to Irish banking’s poor international image.

SMALL wind farm projects say they are being forced to go abroad for finance as they are being refused loans by Irish banks who say they can’t access funding due to Irish banking’s poor international image.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) say that the smaller wind farms, typically producing less than 5MW of energy, are going directly to European banks. It is believed the Bristol office of Dutch bank Triodos is sweeping up much of the Irish co-operative business.

“The Irish co-ops are being told by the Irish banks that they just can’t access the money from abroad; that trust has been lost,” said an IWEA source.

These projects require up to €800 million of investment in the next 10 years as planned projects move to production. The co-operative sector delivers an estimated 300MW of Irish wind energy and are worth up to €280m. Typically, the co-operative provide 15% of the finance and seek bank funding for the remaining 85%.

Chairman of the Meitheal na Gaoithe, the Irish Wind Farmers Cooperative Society, Thomas Cooke, said they found foreign banks have more experience in this sector.

“European banks tend to favour projects that have local developers involved, people based in the community. They are no less proficient in terms of their due diligence on projects but when they are presented with a project, they tend to evaluate it quickly and come to a conclusion a lot quicker than Irish banks. Needless to say, it helps that their costs are a lot less,” he said.

“We estimate that small wind farms will contribute approximately 1,000 MW by 2020 and with 700 MW or so of that has yet to be installed, so there is a lot to play for.

“But right now European banks are much more friendly towards these projects,” Mr Cooke said.

Director for the Centre of Renewable Energy at Dundalk Institute of Technology, Larry Staudt, said the micro and small wind energy sector has the potential to create hundreds of jobs over the coming years in manufacturing and services.

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