A Larne-based renewable energy company is delivering on its pledge to create employment opportunities in the borough and provide a boost to the local economy.
Since its inception in 2007, Wind NI has grown into one of the largest wind power development companies in Northern Ireland. It now has seven fully operational turbines at sites across the province, including Ballycarry, with another five on course to be installed over the coming months.
Established by Colm McClean and Larne man Jonny Barr, one of Wind NI’s main objectives from the outset was the creation of new jobs locally.
And Colm told the Larne Times this week that the firm has just taken on its eleventh team member.
He added: “We are extremely pleased that the rapid pace of our portfolio has led to the creation of several new employment posts in both our office-based team and the construction teams required for turbine installation. We expect this trend to continue over the coming years.”
The company’s main clients are landowners who are seeking to have a single wind turbine located on their property, and are looking for assistance with the planning process and other issues associated with such a project.
Colm added: “Developing a single wind turbine project is an expensive and complicated process, which is why many landowners who are interested in the possibility of a wind turbine on their land come to us. We do all the work to get the project through planning, grid connection and turbine installation, and keep them appraised of the progress every step of the way.
“There is no expense to the landowner and we shoulder all the risk associated with the project. Once the turbine is operational and connected to the grid, the landowner receives a quarterly payment in return for the rental of the very small area of land on which the turbine is located.”
Wind NI, based at Upper Main Street, spent its early years conducting research into the planning system and undergoing intensive training in advanced turbine siting and technologies.
The company then began building its own portfolio of projects, and has achieved a 100 per cent success rate from the 50 planning applications it has submitted so far.
Jonny said the reason for the company’s impressive track record stems from the fact that they only pursue schemes that they believe will attain success.
He added: “We only take on projects that we believe can achieve planning approval, that we are confident will be financially successful and that we are sure will have no significant negative impacts on local amenity.”
Jonny also said the company’s relationship with the landowners is key, adding: “We work in partnership with them as much as possible, rather than dictating how things should be done.”
Wind NI helped Ballycarry landowner Ian Milliken successfully establish a turbine at his Manse Road property last year.
Mr Milliken said: “As a rural business we had an interest in renewables for many years. With a view to supporting our business we looked at the alternatives to help us through difficult business conditions and the increasing farm costs. I approached several wind companies, but despite being a very young business at the time, Wind NI stood out from the start. In a short time they have grown significantly as a local employer, ensuring they can manage all the turbine developments in-house.”
As well as providing employment opportunities in the borough directly, Wind NI’s projects have a trickle down effect which help boost the economy on a wider scale.
Colm said: “We are not civil engineers, so the installation side of our projects is handled by local sub-contractors. Even our new staff uniforms are being made locally, by Larne company Creative Designs NI.
“We are delighted with the success the company has had, especially over the past year which has been our best yet. The more success we have, the more we can continue to grow and branch out into other areas.
“However, we intend to stay true to our roots; it has worked well for us so far, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”