Kildare wind farm fears over Bono’s Monasterevin distillery project

Objections: Locals fear wind farm will impact tourism projects

Leinster Leader reporter

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Kildare wind farm fears over Bono’s Monasterevin distillery project

Photo montage of what the turbines will look like

“Bono and Paddy McKillen are trusting us with €65m of their money in developing the Ballykelly Mills Distillery and people won’t want to visit the area if those turbine monstrosities get approval,” says Mary Fanning McCormack, Monasterevin resident, veteran journalist and farmer.

“I was rocked to the core when I saw photomontages of the turbines (see above). They are the height of Liberty Hall and the Spire put together.”

Ummeras Wind Farm Ltd (Statkraft) wants to build five 169m turbines between Rathangan and Monasterevin in the townlands of Ummeras Beg, Coolatogher, Mullaghroe Lower, Ummeras More and Coolsickin/Quinsborough.

The last date for submissions to the council is today, Thursday, February 25.

Ms Fanning McCormack says there has been an investment of €5m in the Blueway Grand Canal project, and €100,000 earmarked for design proposals of the Umeras Peatland Park.

She emphasises there were already between 400 and 500 people using the Blueway since the pandemic began. She points out the economic benefits such as those experienced by the Greenway in Waterford including the potential for job creation. She says Statkraft has not consulted with her or her neighbours, apart from sending a leaflet.

The Monasterevin and Rathangan Wind Awareness group says; “you couldn’t pick a worse location for turbines in Ireland if you tried — in the middle of a new tourism hub with over 60 million being invested by the county councils of Kildare, Laois and Offaly on Blueways and Bono on Ballykelly Mills Distilleries and the Just Transition Fund and Kildare Leader on Umeras Peatlands Park.”

It believes this project won’t create any permanent local jobs and will damage tourism which can bring the streets of Monasterevin and Rathangan back to life with cafes, restaurants, pubs, bike and kayak hire, B&Bs, AirB&Bs, hotels, and many other spin-off opportunities.”

The group also contends the proposal contravenes the Kildare County Development Plan because turbines are not permitted at the Grand Canal protected scenic route and Umeras Bridge scenic view.

It stresses that Bord na Mona is planning the biggest block of wind turbines in Ireland stretching from Daingean (Mount Lucas) south of Edenderry (Cloncreen) to Allenwood and to Lullymore and Rathangan (Ballydermot).

“They are planning between 100 and 150 turbines for these bogs so why is Statkraft proposing to put five turbines in the middle of a tourism hub in South Kildare?” they ask.

It says there are rare curlew, lapwings and hen harriers using Umeras Bog and the Barrow Special Area of Conservation.

It also believes that if this development is approved, more turbines could be on the horizon.

In response, a Statkraft company spokesperson states that while the planning application is before Kildare County Council, it cannot comment on its specifics.

However, it did say Statkraft doesn’t have any plans to extend the Ummeras wind farm, if successful in its application.

“The company has consulted and is continuing to consult extensively with all those living in the vicinity of the proposed Ummeras wind farm. This intensive programme of work began in March 2020 and while disrupted due to Covid restrictions, an online virtual consultation platform has recently gone live,” he says.

“This virtual platform along with a host of accurate project information can be accessed on www.ummeraswindfarm.ie.”

Information

The company says all 180 households living within 1.7km of the five proposed sites have been either visited or had information posted to them — since calling door-to-door was rendered impossible due to Covid. It says ideas have been sought on the use of a community benefit fund which would be worth in excess of €150,000 a year to the area.

Among proposals put forward by locals are improvements to broadband, development of an energy efficiency scheme, support for a men’s shed and a local community garden initiative. Statkraft says it also supported a ‘Meals on Wheels’ initiative in the immediate area during the early days of the pandemic.

It stresses Statkraft is eager to engage with locals, develop meaningful relationships with communities and is an experienced, professional developer of renewable energy with an excellent track record.