Tuesday, 29 September 2015
Alternative Energy Projects
I thank the Minister for taking this debate personally, as it does not happen too often in this House. As he is aware, I am not a fan of wind energy, which I believe is a folly. When we do a cost-benefit analysis subsequently we will discover that. However, that is not the essence of the matter I raise, which is to discuss the community fund these wind farm developers put in place. When communities fight against these developments and lose, and these unsightly turbines are imposed upon them, there should be certainty as to how much the community will benefit from the wind farm developments. They need to be set by the Minister and not the way it is being done currently, which is that the more one objects, the more one will get and if one does not object to a wind farm development, one will get nothing.
I will give the Minister an example. In Sliabh Bán, in County Roscommon, there are 20 wind turbines which stand 130 m high into the sky. They will destroy the landscape of Sliabh Bán. On initial consultation the wind farm developers were offering €57,000 a year to the local community. Following further consultation and discussion they increased that to €87,000 per year. The first problem with that is that in the United Kingdom, and we always say we follow the UK model because that is the way they do their business, they decide how much the community gets based on a certain amount of money per megawatt produced. That is £5,000 per annum per megawatt being produced. If that were to apply to Sliabh Bán, in County Roscommon, the community would be getting €420,000 per annum.It appears that, through negotiation, the Sliabh Bán group has managed to get €1,500 per megawatt produced, while in the UK the amount would be €7,500 per megawatt produced. A fair fee needs to be set by the Minister. What is not fair is the negotiated amount in place. Second, the wind farm developers need to deal with a local community group to decide where the money is spent. What is happening in this particular case is that the developers are handing the money over to the Leader programme. The Leader programme will accept applications from football clubs and so on but many local people will not benefit. Farmers who are adjacent to these developments, perhaps 500 m away, have their land devalued as a result and get nothing. Many of the local people will end up with nothing. Basically, we are buying off community groups with a set of jerseys every year. It is not fair on most of the people who lose out as a result of these developments.