The first day of Spring 2021 saw the launch of Green Skibbereen's ambitious plans for Myross Wood House at their inaugural online Conference, Climate Action & Sustainability for West Cork. Over 280 had registered to attend, 100 attended via zoom and the remaining people watched the live feed on Facebook.
Green Skibbereen is a not-for-profit community organisation, set up in 2020 by a group of friends who were disillusioned with progress on climate action in their local area in West Cork. Director Jim O'Donnell, opened the event, outlining the group's vision to "go after carbon" to reduce or eliminate it in the greater Skibbereen area. And by coming together and doing so, the group hopes to act as an inspiration to other towns around Ireland.
Bringing the Community together to plan for climate change is key, Noel Casserly, Director, explained. Discussions with other groups in Skibbereen and around Ireland led the group to commence plans for a Centre for Excellence for Climate Action & Sustainability (CECAS) and discussions with the owners of Myross Wood House began. An application to Horizon 2020 (H2020) fund, if successful, will see Myross House receive significant funding from the EU "for building and renovating in an energy and resource efficient way" and inclusion as one of three H2020 Demonstrator sites in Europe.
Myross Wood House is a historic building, owned by the Irish Missionaries Society. Set in 100 acres of beautiful woodland with walled gardens and access to the sea, it's located outside Leap in West Cork and has been used as a community centre and religious retreat centre since the 1970's.
Myross Wood House is currently a demonstrator building with the Energy Pathfinder Project and is a pilot for developing the co-design process, consulting with residents and future users on proposed energy works and energy management.
Angela Brady of Brady Mallalieu Architects outlined the short- and long-term vision for Myross Wood House as a CECAS. An education centre where students could come and learn about the environment, business hub, accommodation centre, ttraining & research hub, events centre (hosting green weddings and concerts), well-being centre, were just some of the ideas outlined which could be developed at Myross.
The retrofitting of the building itself and the elements involved i.e. heat recovery system, water re-use, natural ventilation, insulation etc. can all be studied as the project develops. Green Skibbereen will set up base and use hte space as a gathering place to develop ideas and get it up and running. Links with UCC's School of Architecture and schools will all assist in the development of a place where people can come to learn and help change the environment for the better.
Funding options were outlined by Brendan McCormack, Green Skibbereen Director. EU & State funding will be tapped into, including applications to the SEAI. Use of the residential facilities will be a priority to generate an income stream. Donations and fundraising events will all contribute to the start-up. The project is hoping to achieve charitable status in 2021 and the initial target for fundraising in 2021 was set out at €100,000.
Caitriona Courtney, NCE's Energy Hub Manager and Energy Pathfinder Partner, gave some background on NCE''s Energy Hub and outlined SEAI's Community Energy Grant, explaining how it is designed to get Communities working together to achieve energy savings across a range of projects.
Caitriona outlined the key measures covered and the grant funding available for residential and non-residential projects. Three Energy Hub case studies (Baltimore Pool, Drinagh Co-Op and O'Donnell Furniture) from the West Cork area were outlined. Grants drawn down and the expected payback for each of these projects, in terms of savings, were explained.
Trish Lavelle, Green Skibbereen Director & Treasurer, facilitated a Question & Answer session with questions relating to agriculture/land use, transport, ownership of Myross House and consultation with the local community addressed.
Jose Opsina, Green Skibbereen Director & Project Manager for Energy Pathfinder, brought the event to a close and explained the next steps for Climate Action in West Cork. He gave some background on his role in Carbery Housing Association and the work he had done in conjunction with NCE's Energy Hub retrofitting houses. He explained how his Project Management Role for the Energy Pathfinder Project had led him to Myross House and to him questioning how a historic building can be kept in community ownership and given a new community role.
The next steps for the Green Skibbereen's CECAS project include:
- Green Skibbereen moving into Myross Wood House
- Results of two Feasibility Studies being published
- Generation of funds, commencing with donations
- Looking for partners for joint use of the centre and preparation of EU funding proposals with same
- Secure income form the rental of space and sale of services
- Look at how local groups can contribute, as this must be done in partnership with the local community.
In the short term, the plan is to develop a Sustainable Energy Community, applying for funding for a Masterplan, in order to identify energy retrofitting opportunities and renewable energy opportunities in the region, whilst working with NCE's Energy Hub to access SEAI funding for Better Energy Community Grants.
Green Skibbereen aims to develop an effective, community-based response to climate change in West Cork and will work in close partnership with Cork County Council and the Department of the Environment, Climate & Communications in helping implement a Climate Action Plan.
CECAS will be an inclusive, effective, practical and innovative centre for investigating and demonstrating practical solutions to Climate Change.
The event concluded at 8.45pm. Exciting times lie ahead for Myross Wood House and we look forward to future updates and involvement with Green Skibbereen on this project. The Energy Pathfinder Cork Partners (NCE Energy Hub, University College Cork) are delighted to be working with such an ambitious user group for the Irish Demonstrator site at Myross Wood House.
If you would like to find out more about Green Skibbereen and their developments at Myross Wood, visit their website www.greenskibbereen.ie.
Watch the complete recording of Green Skibbereen's Conference on YouTube here.