Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Wind Energy Guidelines

6:40 pm

Photo of Marian HarkinMarian Harkin (Sligo-Leitrim, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I want to raise issues relating to the siting of wind farms, particularly on mountainsides and largely on peaty soil. I will begin with some general points about wind farms, their siting and how we do business in this regard. In addition, I will focus on two proposed wind farms, one at Dough Mountain near Lissinagroagh, Manorhamilton, County Leitrim, and the other close to the top of Corry Mountain, which is near Dromahair.

The first point to make is that we are still awaiting the publication of the new wind energy guidelines, which were signed off by the then Ministers, Deputies Coveney and Naughten, in 2017. We were told, although we have not seen them, that they give due regard to the concerns of local communities and individual families within the vicinity of turbines. The new standards were opposed by vested interests. The guidelines would mean, in effect, that, in line with the WHO standard, a turbine louder than a bird would be shut down. Four and a half years later, the standards have not been implemented. We are now told the noise aspect is once again under review. It seems to me this is being done simply to allow vested interests to submit planning applications under the 2006 guidelines, which are hopelessly out of date, without having to adhere to the WHO standards. How often do Ministers, quite rightly, come into this House and tell us we must follow the science? In this matter, we need to follow the science from the WHO.

Why are we not following those guidelines when it comes to wind turbines?

I am also referring to turbines that are 185 m high. Given that many will be placed on mountain sides, they will be among the highest in Europe, with some of them at 300 m above sea level. These are monsters. They are twice the size of the Statue of Liberty and 50% taller than the Dublin Spire. No matter how far I put back my head, I could not see the top of them. In answer to a question from the former Minister, Deputy Naughten, the Minister of State said we need wind energy onshore and offshore, and he is right. In truth, would he or I be happy with a 185 m monster towering over our homes on the side of a mountain less than 1 km away?

In respect of Corry Mountain, Coillte said in its environmental impact study that the site is predominantly blanket peat overlying glacial subsoil, with depths of somewhere between 0 m and 6 m of peat, averaging over 2 m. Some 30% of the site is very steep, with streams entering the River Bonet. Last weekend, we were in Drumkeeran with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy McConalogue, at the site of the Shass Mountain landslide. Everybody agreed that there will be more landslides because of heavy rains and forestry plantations. We can add to that the siting of wind turbines on peatland sites. If we do that, we are looking for trouble. Will the Government publish the guidelines and re-examine how we are dealing with the siting of wind turbines?


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