Unidentified individuals are seeking to extort money from the owners of a wind farm which is under construction outside Brookeborough.

Threats are also being made to the local construction workers currently based at the site and an intimidating letter was hand delivered to the home of the site foreman on Sunday night.

The letter is understood to have warned the local man and his colleagues to leave the site at Teiges Mountain, close to Moanes’ Cross.
The men were left “extremely distressed” by the development, which is the third criminal incident related to the site.

Last week, The Impartial Reporter revealed that 17 electricity poles along the grid route between Teiges Hill Road and Grogey Road had been cut part the way through with a hand saw in mid-January, rendering them unfit for purpose.

READ: Windfarm electricity poles vandalised as £50,000 grants given

It has since emerged that a letter was sent to the wind farm developer in early February, demanding money and threatening further damage to their operations. That letter was forwarded to Energia, which owns the wind farm, and has reported the incidents to the police.

Managing Director of Energia Peter Baillie was in Brookeborough on Monday evening to administer grants worth £50,000 to groups carrying out local projects in the Brookeborough, Cooneen and Knocks areas.
Mr. Baillie warned that the Teiges Mountain Wind Farm Fund which is worth £50,000 over each of the next 25 years – a total of £1.25 million – is in jeopardy if the wind farm is not constructed on time.

He also stressed that Energia’s New York-headquartered owners have very strict anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies and are “crystal clear” in their refusal to deal with groups who are “seeking to extort money.”
Community representatives voiced their disappointment and “disgust” at the revelations and said the perpetrators should not risk the much-needed investment coming into the rural area.

Jimmy Boyle, of the Cooneen/Coonian Community Development Association said: “This is very disappointing for the area. They are risking depriving the local community of much needed funds.”

Martin Carey from the Knocks Community Development group agreed. “It’s disgraceful,” he commented, adding: “This company is coming in to provide services and support to the local community, hence it deserves a certain amount of respect. You have to be sympathetic if a wind farm is in somebody’s back yard, but this wind farm is in an area with a small population, so Energia putting money back into this community is a plus.”
Principal of Brookeborough Controlled Primary School Hazel Gardiner said news of the extortion attempts was “disappointing.” She explained that the money received would fund a new polytunnel for the school, which will then be moved to the new shared education campus. “We are trying to look positively to the future,” she emphasised.
Sinn Féin Councillor Sheamus Green appealed for those involved to “stop”, adding: “It’s annoying. We wouldn’t want this area to get a bad reputation; it’s not something that has ever happened in this area.”
He added: “It’s great to see these local groups benefitting but this activity puts that under threat – I would appeal to whoever is at it to stop.”

Mr. Baillie told The Impartial Reporter: “We have no idea who is responsible. The police have been made aware of the letters. They are investigating it.”

He added: “We cannot engage with people who are seeking to extort money. That is what is happening here.
“We are owned by I Squared Capital, therefore, as a company our shareholders have pension funds invested in them and they have very strict anti-bribery and anti-corruption policies.”
He said the management company Alexander Civil Engineering “just want this to stop” and added: “It’s not nice for anybody.”
Energia faced a problem at a wind farm site at Carrickmore two years ago when masked men entered the site brandishing a gun and ordered workmen from Alexander’s off the site. On that occasion the contractor was replaced, and the wind farm was completed.
“There was a different problem in Tyrone where I think there was some history in the area,” said Mr. Baillie.

Energia has reviewed its security arrangements in light of the developments at the Teiges Mountain Wind Farm but Mr. Baillie vowed that work will continue at the site. 
When operational, the five General Electric turbines, which will stand at 120 metres tall, with a rotor blade diameter of 103 metres, will generate 11MW of electricity each year - enough to power 7,000 homes. It will also contribute to strengthening the resilience of the rural electricity network in that area.

Energia decided to release £50,000 in advance of the wind farm becoming operational in recognition of the disruption caused to the local community during the construction phase.

READ: Windfarm electricity poles vandalised as £50,000 grants given

Mr. Baillie said: “There has been a recognition that when you bring a windfarm to a community, you bring a disruption to that community. 
“Wind turbines are visible and if you live within certain distances you can hear them so it’s important that we have a relationship with the community we are in and we promote as many community activities as we can.”

He concluded: “We are not aware of any specific opposition to the windfarm. We feel this is an isolated group or incident and our hope is that people in the community can use whatever influence they have to stop this.”