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Defence minister, Tony Killeen, launched the Regional Approaches to Stimulation Local Renewable Energy Solutions Project (RASLRES) on behalf of the Western Development Commission (WDC) earlier this week.

RASLRES is a €3m multi-national European bio-energy project funded by the Northern Periphery Programme aiming to build awareness of opportunities for rural communities to produce and supply locally produced biomass (wood, seaweed and energy crops) to towns and cities.

WDC research claims that the west of Ireland could develop sustainable, renewable energy resource delivering 11% of the region’s heat needs by 2020.

However, this would need 470,000 tonnes of wood fuel a year, but would also mean an additional €15 million a annum coming into the economy creating up to 900 jobs in rural areas.

Mr Killeen said: “This exciting project aims to provide business development support to rural biomass communities and will aid development of biomass supply chains through direct business and community engagement.

“The project has the potential to bring nearly €1 million funding to Ireland’s Western Region over its three year lifetime and support over 50 companies.

“While some of the other countries are pursuing various other renewable energy areas under this Programme, the WDC is focusing on the wood energy sector.”

The RASLRES project will address current barriers to market growth including low levels of market confidence, insufficient market information and limited technical and business skills, and actively tackle the issues at regional and local level.

Luke Walsh

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