This County Louth town is an ideal place to start showing real life examples of sustainable living because in 2007 Dundalk officially became Ireland's first sustainable energy zone.
The zone is a 4 sq km section of the town, chosen to contain all the elements of a community – residential, college, secondary school, hospital, leisure facilities, industrial park, retail, hotel and office accommodation. It has become a focus for sustainable energy initiatives to try to raise awareness throughout the locality. In essence, it has become a 'show town' in terms of what can be achieved in sustainable living, in the hope of developing sustainable energy communities in Ireland. The project is called Dundalk 2020 and is spearheaded by Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).
In Dundalk, the targets to be reached by 2020 are:
- 20% electricity from renewable sources
- 20% heat from renewable sources, and
- 40% improvement in the energy performance of selected buildings.
Progress to date
Dundalk 2020 project has been set out in many different zones:
- Industry: Collective training of Dundalk's industry to improve energy usage. They are striving to adhere to many of the SEAI's programmes, like an Energy Map - an online guide to good business practice.
- Renewable street lights: Using wind and sun energy to power street level lighting. Energy from micro wind turbines and photo-voltaic cells can be stored in a battery for up to ten days.
- Residential houses: An upgrade of all homes in the project area to reach sustainable energy efficient levels, making them easier to heat and more comfortable to live in.
- Smart Meters pilot: Instead of your ordinary electricity meter, Smart Meters provide information on the amount and cost of electricity being used.
- Secondary school: The aim is to make O’Fiach College 60% more sustainable, through saving energy with better building insulation.
- Dundalk IT: Improve the college's sustainable campus that has already been improved by their on-site wind turbine.
- Hospital: The Dundalk 2020 project wants to improve the existing building at Louth County Hospital.
- New homes: In Mullagharlin, 234 residential units are planned to be built by 2015 to show the correct use of technology to create very comfortable living environments. It is hoped to use a biomass district heating scheme which guarantees a supply of heat and constant hot water at a cheaper price.
- Biomass district heating: This heating system delivers renewable heat to individual energy users within the energy zone. Water is heated at the scheme’s energy centre and circulated through an underground pipe network to customers. Local wood chip will supply the heating system, making it the centre of a sustainable energy community.
- Wind Turbine: A second wind turbine will be introduced to the town to power the Xerox campus.
Dundalk's wind turbine
A major feature of the Dundalk 2020 project is the the first “urban turbine” in Ireland . It is the first autoproducer (electricity used locally) large turbine in the country and is the first in the world to be housed on a third level campus; Dundalk IT. Costing over €1 million, the turbine is predicted to be able to save 1300 tonnes of CO2 per annum - the same weight as eighty trucks. It was installed in August 2005 and provides half of Dundalk IT’s electricity needs. The turbine tower is 60 metres tall, and the turbine blades are 25m long. The maximum power output is 850kW, and the average power output is 200kW.
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