2023 was a year of growth and development for our dedicated Project Communications team. Having been established in 2022, Project Communications remains one of the youngest specialist services within MKO. However, the past twelve months have seen the team venture into several different disciplines, gaining valuable experience and insight along the way.
Community engagement in renewable energy projects was the primary focus of Project Communications in 2023. Working with developers and MKO’s industry-leading team of planners and environmental scientists, Project Communications implemented community engagement campaigns on several large-scale, on- and off-shore wind farms across Ireland. Examples included the Carrig Renewables Wind Farm in Co Tipperary, the Cooloo Wind Farm in Go Galway, and the Sceirde Rocks Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Connemara, one of the largest and most significant infrastructure projects ever proposed for Ireland’s Atlantic coast.
Project Communications has implemented end-to-end public consultation campaigns on wind farm projects such as these, beginning with initial door-knocking and project introductions and continuing through to Public Information Events. An industry trend that has become increasingly noticeable in 2023 is that of communities expecting and demanding that meaningful community engagement take place on renewable energy projects of all scales and sizes. In the past, community and stakeholder engagement was largely the preserve of wind farm projects alone, but the experience of Project Communications over the last year suggests that communities now want prior consultation on projects which may previously have been regarded as too small or too unobtrusive to warrant it. This applies to solar farms – Project Communications ran community engagement on a large-scale solar installation in Kilkenny over the summer – and, increasingly, to battery storage facilities. Battery storage is still a relatively new and unfamiliar technology in Ireland, but it will play a critical role in the years to come as we move further away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy sources.
This unfamiliarity, augmented by dramatised and sometimes misinformed reporting of the dangers of battery storage online, has created suspicion amongst sections of the general public when it comes to battery storage. Project Communications have been involved in two large-scale battery storage projects in 2023 – one at the pre-planning phase and the other after a Request for Further Information was received – and we have heard first-hand the common concerns that residents and business owners living and working in close proximity to these installations have brought forward.
What our experiences in 2023 have reaffirmed is that when it comes to battery storage, solar, or indeed any kind of renewable energy project, there is no room for anything less than a community engagement approach which is proactive and aims to inform the community of project plans at the earliest practical stage. Proactive and meaningful engagement is an essential part of the success of renewable energy projects, now more than ever. Our Project
Communications team is at the forefront of designing and implementing end-to-end engagement strategies to ensure that the developers with whom we work can navigate the engagement phase of their projects efficiently.
Project Communications was also fortunate to be involved in several projects outside the renewable space in 2023. The past year has seen the service offering branch out into public consultation on urban planning projects, including two Town Centre First Plans on either side of the country. A new tranche of these TCF Plans is due to come on stream in 2024, and Project Communications is looking forward to applying the experience garnered this year to more of these projects. Project Communications has also been engaged in construction projects across a number of sectors in 2023, including residential and educational. These projects required considered, strategic public consultation and Project Comms were able to successfully advise and support our clients in that regard.
As we look ahead to 2024, our Project Communications team aims to continue to grow and diversify into new sectors. Community engagement on renewable projects will remain a core tenet of what we do, and with several projects in the pipeline in wind and battery storage, the new year looks set to be a busy one. But we also intend to continue developing our skills and experience in areas like urban planning and placemaking, and to branch out into new sectors, as we did successfully over the past twelve months.
If you have a project which you feel could benefit from the services provided by our Project Communications team, please get in touch with Project Communications, Project Director Toni Bourke at email@example.com