Fears turbines may destroy livelihoods in Kildare horse industry

There are fears that the racing industry could be impacted by wind turbines. Photo Healy Racing.
There are fears Kildare’s thoroughbred horse industry may be under threat due to the construction of 2,000 wind turbines across the midlands.

There are fears Kildare’s thoroughbred horse industry may be under threat due to the construction of 2,000 wind turbines across the midlands.

Element Power plan to build 750 turbines - some in west Kildare. Two other companies are also examining options to build a further 1,250 in the region although it’s unclear how many will be built here.

Over 100 people attended an information meeting held by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) at the Tullamore Court Hotel last Tuesday September 3. The ITBA asked Element Power and Mainstream to attend, but they declined. However two representavies from Element Power met with the group earlier that day.

The meeting was informed some of the wind energy companies have threatened to sue farmers who are trying to pull out of the signed option agreements to build turbines on their land.

“This is a moral scandal,” said solicitor Nora Fagan. One member of the audience, Tom Wallace said he had been in touch with a farmer who said he was threatened with legal action by Element Power as he was not going ahead with it.

Marian Condren from People Over Wind held up a letter showing that a neighbour of a proposed wind farm had been told he would receive €3,200 a year, or a once off payment of €30,000 if he signed his consent.

“That is something so alarming. That is something which has to be shouted from the rooftops,” she said.

Ms Fagan said there was a clause in the contract which excludes the grazing of horses on the farm. She said promises of €20,000 per annum could soon whittle down to €9,000 a year after tax and VAT. She highlighted issues with the contracts and said farmer would have little gain compared to the risk taken on. Accountant Declan McEvoy said the leases were exempt from VAT but the landlord has the option to tax the lease.

ITBA member, Jeff Mulhern said owners would pull their horses from a stud if they were being kept close to a turbine. Professor Alun Evans from Queens University said there were no peer reviewed studies on the affects on horses. However, he recommended the ITBA engage an acoustic engineer and a veterinary expert to look into it.

“I think the ITBA should be concerned. I think they should be concerned about the health of their livestock,” he said. Chairman of the ITBA, Joe Osborne, who is manager of Kildangan Stud, said the ITBA would assess the information, take into account members views, and make a stance.

“In the thoroughbred business, foreign investment is a big component of what we do. My boss is from Dubai and he came over to Kildare, he saw cattle, the trees and the landscape and he said this is where he wanted the business to operate,” he said.

- Niamh O’Donoghue