– 112 community-based projects and 70 young scholars receive £500,000 in funding from SSE’s NI wind farms in 2023/23 –
Thursday 14 September 2023: SSE Renewables’ commitment to supporting local communities and young people in Northern Ireland saw an investment of half a million pounds over the last year. That’s according to latest data published in SSE Renewables’ 2022/23 Community Investment Review for Northern Ireland, which has been published today.
The SSE Renewables Community and Scholarship Funds have demonstrated support for local projects and students for many years, with the aim of giving back to Northern Ireland communities in the areas surrounding the company’s wind farms in the West and North West.
This year’s annual 2022/23 Community Investment Review reveals that £500,000 has been distributed across Northern Ireland, supporting 112 community-based projects and 70 scholarships to third level education.
Since it first launched its Community Fund programme, SSE Renewables has invested over £4.4 million so far into community-based projects located closest to its wind farms across Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry/Londonderry, as well as in education supports for young people.
Community Funding helps local groups, sports organisations and schools among others in rural communities to develop their facilities with energy efficiency and sustainability upgrades as well as social and environmental projects that enable community development.
This year’s SSE Renewables Scholarship fund has supported 70 students in undertaking STEM courses at Ulster University, North West Regional College and South West College. In addition, through partnerships with The Prince’s Trust and Workspace NI, training courses and volunteering opportunities were provided to help support young people into the workplace.
The funding generated for the SSE Renewables Community Fund and Scholarship Fund comes from revenues earned by its wind farms across Northern Ireland, including the Slieve Kirk Wind Park Community Fund, which is the largest community benefit fund in NI.
Mark Ennis, Chairman of SSE plc in Ireland, said: “We are facing a climate emergency and to make the lasting change needed for Northern Ireland’s future we need collective action. It is clear that the communities near to our wind farms are committed to transitioning to net zero, and the range of projects supported by our community funding, from insulating community buildings to green travel and installing solar panels, shows that small individual actions leads to collective change.”
Stephen Wheeler, Managing Director of SSE Renewables said: “Clean, homegrown energy is more critical than ever, and we’re proud at SSE Renewables to be Northern Ireland’s largest developer and operator of wind farms, playing our part in helping the transition to renewable power. We know that renewable power is important not only for talking the climate emergency and providing energy security but also to support the local transition to a net zero future.
“It is crucial that the transition to net zero provides value for everyone in Northern Ireland and the investment of £500,000 in local communities over the last year highlights how our wind farms are making a real difference. In doing so, we’re aligned to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, ensuring the investments we make into local communities help deliver affordable and clean energy, take climate action to reduce emissions, and support the creation of sustainable cities and communities.”
In the past year SSE Renewables has focused on supporting communities near its Northern Ireland wind farms to deliver impactful projects which support local residents now and into the future.
The company has promoted achieving net zero as a funding focus, resulting in increased requests for insulation, active travel and solar energy projects. The projects show how small actions from individual communities can collectively make an impact on Northern Ireland’s climate transition.
Roe Valley Enterprise in Limavady, County Londonderry, is a charity which works for the benefit of the local area by supporting community enterprise and enhancing local developments. The charity was an early adopter of solar electricity to reduce their electricity bills as well as their carbon usage. To help them enhance this provision they received funding of £2,000 to install an associated battery that will enable the charity to store any excess energy its solar panels generate which can then be used when needed, further assisting with reducing energy bills and diverting the charity’s much-needed resources towards service provision.
Martin Devlin, Roe Valley Enterprise, said: “The funding received from SSE Renewables went towards installing batteries to complement our solar panels, and to increase our overall energy efficiency and sustainability. The battery installation enabled us to further support tenant businesses and to provide workshops targeting the unemployed and disadvantaged groups. The batteries will reduce our energy consumption, with savings being reinvested into the delivery of community programmes and services.”
SSE Renewables funding also supports the continuing provision of vital social inclusion services for the benefit of rural communities. Bovalley Community Association, also in Limavady, is the hub of the local community and has offered a tremendous amount of support throughout the years, but volunteers are at capacity and do not have the ability to meet increased demands. Following the pandemic, the community has experienced high social isolation, increased levels of anti-social behaviour and lower educational attainment. The £5,000 funding support from Slieve Kirk Community Fund has helped employ a programme co-ordinator, so enabling the community to increase services for young people, ensuring good organisation and the successful management of the administration required to run the provision. The services support over 126 local young people and 164 local residents a year.
Janice McClay, Project coordinator, Bovalley Community Association, said: “Through the funding provided by SSE, Bovalley were able to deliver an effective and innovative project with a focus on social isolation. Too many children face barriers due to personal circumstances which prevents them from thriving. The provision of this programme provided many kids with a place of equality, diversity and support whilst upskilling them with skills required to progress both socially and emotionally as they move forward in life.”
Other community fund supports include those designed to provide a helping hand in an emergency. A donation of £1,500 from the Bessy Bell Community to Newtownstewart Golf Club near Omagh, County Tyrone, contributed to the purchase of a defibrillator for use by club members and personnel. The defibrillator is easily accessible and local volunteers have been trained on how to use the equipment to ensure the community is ready to respond in an emergency.
Captain Ian Beattie, Newtownstewart Golf Club, commented: “We hope this new defibrillator will never have to be used but in the event it does, it will provide an extra level of help and protection for our golfers and for other people in the immediate area.”
SSE Renewables is the leading developer and operator of renewable energy in Northern Ireland. Over the last two decades SSE Renewables has invested over £500m in the Northern Ireland economy through renewable energy developments. The company owns 117MW of operational onshore wind farms in locations across Northern Ireland, including the 73MW Slieve Kirk Wind Park.
You can read the 2022/23 Northern Ireland Community Investment Review here.