750m turbine setback mooted for Kildare wind farms

Campaigners anticipate guidelines

Niamh O'Donoghue

Reporter:

Niamh O'Donoghue

Email:

niamh.odonoghue@leinsterleader.ie

750m wind turbine setback mooted

Some of the KEAG campaigners at the meeting

Kildare anti-wind farm campaigners believe the government is set to reveal a 750m turbine setback distance from homes in the new wind energy guidelines, just 250m more than the current distance.

Sources close to Kildare Environmental Awareness Group (KEAG) have revealed the long awaited guidelines will be published in November.

“This is outrageous and an insult to the dwellers in rural Ireland,” declared spokesperson Sheila O’Brien of KEAG.

“We are calling on the Minister for the Environment not to run with the developers, but to stand by the people of rural Ireland and give a much bigger setback as has been done in other countries including Bavaria in Southern Germany and Poland.”

The group said a very successful public meeting was held onj Tuesday, October 25 in the Hamlet Court Hotel, Johnstownbridge to discuss the refusal by An Bord Pleanala of the Maighne wind farm — a 47 wind turbine application by Element Power.

Expert speakers gave comments on the report and suggested various alternatives such as deep geothermal and passive housing standards to meet Ireland’s CO2 reduction targets.

“The current European renewable energy policy is failing and CO2 emissions continue to rise along with the energy costs both for business and households,” said KEAG.

It pointed out the current Draft County Development Plan has not, as yet, made amendments to its energy strategy.

“However, this could change as soon as the new guidelines are published and leave County Kildare open to new applications by the wind developers,” it said.

It would then be likely that Element Power will submit a new application as they did in North County Meath.

“The information received by KEAG was not available at the meeting, but judging by the mood in the hall a wind farm will not be accepted in County Kildare by the constituents, and the people will fight any new attempts,” it added.

“Now people are well informed about the impacts of wind farms in their communities and the developers methodology in sneaking around our community. We are all much smarter now and are ready.”

TDs James Lawless (FF), Bernard Durkin (FG) and Councillors Padraig McEvoy (Ind) and Tim Durkin (FG) were in attendance. Apologies were received from Fiona O’ Loughlin (FF).

The government had given a committment that the new guidelines would be published within six months of the Programme for Government being published.

This means they would have to be signed off by the end of November.

It is believed former Ministers Alex White and Alan Kelly could not agree on the guidelines, leading to months and months of delays.

When asked about the matter, Dep Martin Heydon said; “Work is at an advanced stage with drafts being traded between Minister Simon Coveney and Minister Denis Naughten and we are expecting them to be published very soon.”

It’s understood some FG TDs were pushing for the setback distance to be based on the height of the turbines — the greater the height, the greater the distance.

It is believed they also wanted the setback to vary depending on the location, with less distance between turbines and homes in bogland areas, compared to areas of agricultural land, in a bid to push wind farms into areas with lower populations.

It remains to be seen if those TDs will have any influence on the detail of the guidelines, and if the document will go anyway to alleviate the concerns of the local communities. 

Meanwhile, as part of An Bord Pleanála's decision, it determined the costs associated with the planning application. It awarded itself €52,198, Kildare County Council €16,068 and Meath County Council €4,126. 

The Board decided not to award costs to the observers (KEAG, Donadea Against Turbines and other objectors) because "the Strategic Infrastructure Development application process has enabled full participation by the observers in the case and there are no particular circumstances arising that would justify the developer having to make a contribution towards the costs of the observers in this case."