We are delighted to be partnering with Bord na Móna for this year’s Midlands Science Festival and with their support and sponsorship, we will be providing some fun and interactive events for Midlands schools this November. We caught up with Laura Ryan from the Powergen Development part of the company to find out more about Bord na Móna’s work with schools and in the community.
Laura, we are very proud to be partnering with Bord na Mona this year to promote science education across the Midlands. We know that the company has a strong commitment to local schools. Can you tell us about some of the work that you do to encourage young people to pursue a career in science or technology related areas?
Bord Na Mona has a number of sites in the Midlands that welcome visits from the public and particularly young people to learn more about the advances being made in the areas of renewable energy technology, power generation and ecology to name but a few.
I think that nothing beats first-hand experience. Guided tours are available year-round at Bord Na Mona’s largest windfarm, Mountlucas Co. Offaly, providing information on the his tory of the project which was completed in 2014 and the operation of the windfarm to date. Admission is free, open to the public and is proving particularly popular with schools where we have seen a real interest displayed by the students in the workings of the windfarm. The visi tor’s centre has also recently installed an interactive Learning Hub which allows young people to learn more about the wind turbine technology and the national significance of wind energy.
Edenderry power station also provides tours for schools where skilled technicians are on-hand to provide a background on the power plant his tory and operation. The power station is the single biggest consumer of carbon neutral biomass in the country and the tour provides an invaluable learning experience for young people.
Ireland has to completely transform the way that we generate and consume energy for the future. 10% of the country’s renewable electricity needs are generated by Bord na Móna at its power stations and wind farms..Can you tell us about Mountlucas and the role it has to play?
Ireland has one of the best wind resources in Europe and this resource is essential in meeting our 2020 renewable energy target of 16%. Wind energy currently supplies 85% of all renewable electricity generation. The benefits of wind energy to Ireland are significant: major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the power sec tor, better energy security for the island and supporting the local economy with job creation.
Mountlucas, one of the largest windfarms in Ireland at 84MW power output, consists of 28 wind turbines which provide enough renewable electricity to power 45,000 homes per year. 125,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide are offset annually due to the windfarm displacing electricity from gas- or coal-fired electricity plants. Developing more windfarms similar to Mountlucas is critical to the future of renewable electricity generation in Ireland.
One of the ways Bord na Mona as a company maintains a close connection to people is by opening up our land to the community. Bord na Móna’s ecology team have been working on local lands to help res tore and rehabilitate former working bogs wherever possible. Can you tell us about some of the interests and activities available to people in the Midlands?
Bord Na Mona, through its Biodiversity Action Plan, has made a formal commitment to rehabilitating its cutaway peatlands. Lough Boora discovery park, located near Tullamore Co. Offaly, is an excellent example of a realisation of this work. The bog has been re-vegetated, in some areas rewetted and now boasts an impressive outdoor sculpture park, amenity pathway and fishing and cycling facilities to name but a few of the onsite amenities.
Mountlucas wind farm includes 7km of public amenity walkways and is also the current host of the Offaly park run which takes place every Saturday.
Providing public access to these sites allows us to inform the community on the rehabilitation and development efforts of the team in Bord Na Mona.
We know that we need to keep working to encourage the next generation to consider science more closely when looking at third level choices. What do you think we can do to make sure more student choose science?
I think that an emphasis should be made on the real-life practical applications of science and technology. Concepts that are taught in the classroom should be related to real-world examples. I always found examples useful in visualising a problem particularly when I was studying physics for my Leaving Cert. With science subjects I think that nothing beats practical experience.
Taking part in events like the Young Scientist should also be encouraged with an emphasis on participation and producing new ideas.
My background is energy engineering and as a student studying engineering I visited different power generation sites. These visits were some of the highlights of the my years in college and I think young people would really respond to more first-hand experience.