Local Group Water Scheme launches new solar panel project

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Local Group Water Scheme launches new solar panel project

Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme (GWS) has become the first Group Water Scheme to use solar energy to directly power its water treatment plant

Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme (GWS), working with Clár ICH, Eco Smart and Veolia, has become the first Group Water Scheme to use solar energy to directly power its water treatment plant.

Serving an area reaching to Carrick-on-Shannon, the site will be able to reduce energy costs by 70% and cut carbon emissions following the launch of the new solar energy project. The photovoltaic (PV) system will directly help the environment by reducing CO2 emissions and will enable the local community to benefit from water treatment cost savings.

Polecat Springs GWS supplies water to rural properties covering 80 square kilometres stretching from Elphin Town northwards to Carrick-on-Shannon and from Ballinameen eastwards to the River Shannon, and operates as a community co-operative. Installation of the new solar panels means electricity generated on site, which was previously drawn from the National Grid, will now be used to power the various stages of the water treatment process.

According to Martin Beirne of Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme, solar energy was chosen as it provided the best solution due to the location of the site and the amount of electricity required. In addition, there is also the future possibility to integrate battery storage at the site which has the potential to make the water treatment plant 100% self-sufficient.

Operated under a contract by Veolia, the project has been supported by the Federation Of Group Water Schemes and has been backed by a Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland grant covering 50% of the investment. The resultant energy cost savings will enable the project to pay for itself within six years.

In a joint statement, Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Councillor Paschal Fitzmaurice and Chief Executive, Eugene Cummins said: “It is great to see the community around Polecat Springs investing in a more sustainable future that will see significant savings in energy and will contribute in a very positive way to climate change at a local level. This community initiative is an example to all and hopefully other schemes and communities will follow the example set by Polecat Springs Group Water Scheme”.

Pat Lavin of Eco Smart, which worked with Veolia to deliver the project, said: “The principle aims of this project were to reduce the GWS’s carbon footprint, reduce energy and running costs at the plant, and set an example for other similar schemes in terms of sustainable development and operations for water treatment plants.”

Joe Higgins, Regional Director, Veolia added: “While developments similar to the one at Polecat Springs have been done at a municipal level, this is the first GWS that is using solar energy to power its water treatment plant operations. Veolia is delighted to have been involved in the project and we hope that more water schemes will invest in sustainable energy in the future.”

The Group Water Schemes’ Programme was introduced in 1962 to provide grant aid to rural communities for the construction of water distribution systems from local water sources. Communities set up voluntary co-operative structures known as Group Water Schemes to privately manage these water systems, with operating costs funded through contributions from Group members and Central Government subsidies.