File photo: Pollardstown Fen
Racehorse trainers, breeders and stud farm owners have raised concerns about a proposal to build a solar farm on the edge of the Curragh near Pollardstown Fen.
“The Pollardstown Solar Farm will compromise and jeopardise the success of Ireland's racing and breeding status on the world stage,” said the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, in its objection on the planning file.
“Should the proposed development of Pollardstown be granted, it will be detrimental to the livelihood of trainers and their employees within the vicinity and surroundings of the Pollardstown Solar Farm.”
Kildare County Council had expressed concerns that the proposed 18,000 solar panel farm may impact on Pollardstown Fen.
It asked the developer, Power Capital Renewable Energy Ltd, to hire a hydro geologist to carry out a report to ascertain if the solar farm would impact on surface water and ground water as well as the Fen.
The company wants to build a five megawatt farm, with plans to export a maximum of four megawatts from the 6.08 hectare site.
The plans, which were lodged on June 16, also include the construction of site access from the adjoining L7032 road.
In its further information request on August 10, the council asked the developer to consider the potential negative impact the development may have on the rear gardens of adjacent homes and surrounding sensitive landscapes.
It also wanted clarification on the location of the construction compound, and the possible impact of overgrounding connections on birds and bats, and details of remedial works once the proposed farm is decommissioned.
Last week, the company responded to the council's queries. It said the hydrogeology and hydrology assessment showed the proposed development would have no direct or indirect adverse impact on the Fen.
It said the water balance would not be affected and there was no flood risk. It quoted an English study which found there was a low risk of birds colliding with the panels. The developer also said there would be no impact on bats nesting in the surrounding trees. It disputed the concerns raised by the horse trainers and stud farms and said the solar farm would have no impact on nearby homes.
A decision is now expected by October 2.
There were fourteen submissions on the file.
The Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association (ITBA) said the solar farm would negatively impact on stud farms in the area and their ability to breed and raise thoroughbreds.
It said the site is the home of the former home of First Flyer Stud synonymous with top horses such as Embargo, First Flier, Bunclody and Sweet Dreams.
It said the site should be protected from industrial development.
The Irish Racehorse Trainer's Association said there were 85 licenced trainers in Kildare, ten of whom would be directly affected as well as some nearby stud farms.
It said the County Development Plan sought to protect the equine industry and this development was in conflict with this aim.
It also stated it would be within 300m of Pollardstown Fen.
The Pollardstown Residents Association also contended the solar farm would affect drainage of the Fen and birds may mistake the panels for the surface of water.
An Taisce said a national and regional strategy should be formulated for solar panel farm location.
It said the council should ensure optimum site suitability, protecting biodiversity, areas of sensitivity, archaeological heritage and good tillage.