Under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS), wind and solar farms built near communities must pay an annual contribution into a community benefit fund.

This fund aims to help increase community acceptance of such projects and provides financial support for a range of initiatives led by community groups.

Under RESS, each project must pay €2 for every megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated over the support period, generating significant sums of money for local communities annually. RESS is designed to support wind and solar farms for 15 years.

As the number of wind and solar farms continues to increase around the country, so does the funding available.

RESS projects and their community benefit funds must be registered on the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) National Register and the active funds are found in Table 1.

Many wind farm developers, including global giant Ørsted, have active community funds in Ireland. Ørsted currently operates 21 wind farms, generating 378MW of green electricity across Ireland, each with its own community benefit fund.

These funds vary in size based on the scale of the wind farms. For example, in 2024, Ørsted allocated a total budget of €335,000 for community projects across various regions in Ireland.

Applications open

Applications are still open for the remaining funds from 2023, including €10,000 for the Garracummer site in Tipperary (25km northwest of Cashel) and €12,000 for the Gneeves site (6km from Millstreet) in Cork.

Interested parties can find application details on Ørsted’s Irish website, with a maximum distance of 7km to 10km for eligible community projects.

Offshore boom

The offshore wind industry continues to gain momentum in Ireland, with major windfalls expected for coastal communities.

Under the Offshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS), similar contributions are required for offshore wind farms and the financial impact is expected to be substantial, with a typical 500MW offshore wind project generating approximately €4m annually for local communities.

Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Ireland’s offshore wind development plans aim to deliver 5GW of projects, with total annual community payments estimated at €35m.