Kildare Environmental Awareness Group (KEAG), has branded the current review on the underground versus over ground power line options as “a futile exercise, which can only lead to one conclusion.”
“The debate needs to shift to what matters; our National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) and the plans for energy export. KEAG are calling for a rigorous independent review of our NREAP including grid and infrastructure upgrades and wind export plans. The review should include a full cost benefit analysis, undertaken in a transparent manner with full public participation,” said a spokesperson, “In the meantime, all development of wind energy, both for domestic use and export should be halted. The grid upgrade should also be paused until the completion of the review process.”
The group were responding to last week’s announcement that the Grid Link project, which involves the construction of a high voltage power line from Dunstown, Kilcullen to Cork, via Wexford, would be included in a review.
“The current NREAP, in which wind generation forms the backbone is fundamentally flawed, environmentally unsound and has the potential to cause grievous harm to Ireland, delaying economic recovery by needlessly wasting resources on upgrading infrastructure. The export of Renewable Energy should not proceed until the completion of the review process as exporting renewable electricity without assessing our own needs in a transparent manner makes no sense whatsoever,” it added.
KEAG said the large number of community groups forming in opposition to the plans indicates the Governments current NREAP lacks public support.
“The NREAP, which entails the installation of thousands of wind turbines coupled to thousands of kilometres of high voltage power lines will alter the character of the country for generations to come. Health fears expressed by groups in opposition to wind farms and pylons have not been adequately addressed by the HSE or Government,” it added.
KEAG pointed out that as far back as 2009 the Irish Academy of Engineers raised concerns about the NREAP.
“In the report, which was highly critical of Government energy policy, the Academy also stated ‘Ireland’s planning and permitting processes are dysfunctional, unfit for purpose and lead to a higher cost infrastructure’,” it continued.
KEAG consists of members of South Kildare Against Spin, Bog of Allen Communities Against Spin, Rathangan Against Spin, and North Kildare Environmental Protection Group.
The group believes the current review of the wind energy guidelines with respect to noise, shadow flicker and setback is “completely inadequate”.
“In addition, a recent Freedom of Information request suggests that public participation in the review is a futile exercise, given that 500 metres set back had been decided as far back as March 2012,” it explained.
It said a report prepared at the behest of Kildare councillors following concerns raised by groups and individuals, was put on hold after the Department of Environment advised that County Councils delay drawing up wind energy strategies until the release of the revised guidelines.
“This intervention of the Department is a denial of the democratic rights of the councillors to formulate planning policy for their area. The legal status of the circular is unclear, coming as it does from an unelected public servant. It also adds to the perception that our entire energy strategy, locally, nationally and EU wide is flawed, lacking transparency and is driven by hidden agendas and vested interests,” said a group spokesperson.
“We would like to reiterate that we are in favour of Ireland playing its part in Green House Gas reduction, as agreed at EU level. However, the NREAP, The Export Plan and the Grid Upgrade must be re-examined taking account of the views of all stakeholders. Setting targets for wind energy that can only be achieved by imposing massive turbines and electrical infrastructure in close proximity to people is wrong,” it concluded.
Meanwhile, Eirgrid has welcomed the review and given a commitment to participate fully with the panel. It has said it has been very clear from the consultations and the public debate that concerns exist in relation to the project. It stressed it is important that it listen and responds to these concerns in a meaningful way. It also announced a community fund for areas near the power line routes and a compensation for landowners living near the lines. Those living within 50 metres are to receive a once off payment of €30,000.
Meanwhile, the wind farm companies have continued to stress that there are presently 1,300 onshore turbines operational in Ireland with more than 225,000 located in 79 countries across the globe. It said there is no evidence of any adverse effect on property valuation, health or other adverse problems, which can be directly attributed to an adjacent wind turbine.