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For John Mannion and the Mohill Enterprise Centre, the installation of solar panels and a battery storage unit in 2021, as well as a single charging point for electric vehicles, couldn’t have come at a better time.

The manager of the facility explains that while sky-rocketing energy prices sparked by the lifting of Covid-19 public health restrictions left many organisations across Ireland vulnerable to closure, the Mohill Enterprise Centre’s investment in clean and renewable energy infrastructure saw a reduction in its energy bills in the same period.

“The timing of the work could not have been better. The 11KW solar panels, 40KW battery storage unit and the charging point for EVs took around three weeks to install and commission but the disruption was nothing compared to the return on investment,” says John.

“Our bill has reduced by 40%. We also have an export licence from the ESB which means we are feeding our excess energy to the national grid, the cost of which comes off our bill. That’s worth around €400 a year now.”

The kitchen area of Mohill Enterprise Centre
The kitchen area of Mohill Enterprise Centre
The social area of Mohill Enterprise Centre
The social area of Mohill Enterprise Centre
Media room
Media room with green screen
Computer training room

Modernising the centre has been John’s mission since joining as manager in 2015. Indeed, such was his commitment to the upgrade works, he enlisted the help of the Mohill Sustainable Energy Community (SEC), the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), and the Contract Research Unit at the Atlantic Technological University (ATU) to carry out research on the measures required to boost energy efficiency and reduce costs.

“When I came on board, the centre was a very typical public building in the sense that it was very cold, there was no plastering on the internal walls, just painted blockwork. We joined a group with the SEAI, ATU and Mohill SEC and out of that research came recommendations to replace the storage heaters, pump cavity walls, install LED lighting and insulate the ceilings. The solar panels, battery storage unit and charging point were part of that,” John explains.


Key to Success: WDC Bridging Loan

Mohill Enterprise Centre sought grant support from the LEADER programme for the upgrades but while the initiative covers 75% of the cost, it is only paid following the completion of the works. Facing a funding shortfall, John applied to the Western Development Commission for a bridging loan of €31,000 to get the project underway. John says:

The LEADER funding is a great facility but if you don’t have cash on hand, it’s difficult to get things started. The bridging loan from the WDC was critical because we wouldn’t have had the funding in place ourselves. The overall cost of the solar panels, battery unit, and EV charging point, was around €40,000. LEADER later paid the WDC back the money we owed and then we paid €9,000 ourselves over a period of 12 months.

John continues: “The remarkable thing about the bridging loan from the WDC was how easy the process was. There was no arduous application process. Once we got in touch, everything happened quickly. It was brilliant to have such a loan facility available to social enterprises like our own.”