Seanad debates

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Commencement Matters

Wind Energy Guidelines

10:30 am

Photo of Terry LeydenTerry Leyden (Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Cathaoirleach for selecting this matter for the Commencement debate and I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne. I am calling on the Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, to introduce new wind energy development guidelines in respect of noise, proximity and shadow flicker as a matter of urgency. It is more than three years since the closing date for submissions under the public call for submissions on the proposed revision of the 2006 wind energy guidelines, but we are still no closer to the new guidelines being introduced.

The guidelines were first introduced in 1996 and they were revised in 2006. In the intervening years, the size and scale of wind turbines and industrial wind farms have increased dramatically. Where turbines were approximately 90 metres in height, many are now 170 metres to 200 metres in height. While we wait for new wind energy development guidelines to be introduced rural communities such as mine are sitting ducks for the highly subsidised wind energy industry.It was highlighted that interest had been conveyed to timber companies about the development of a wind energy farm near to where I live in Castlecoote. The Minister needs to do two things. The subsidy for onshore wind energy is far too high. The industry is subsidised but it has created great difficulties for families and residents, particularly in the Slieve Bawn area. Coillte and Bord na Móna built a wind farm in the Roscommon-Strokestown-Ballyleague area but it has caused major difficulties for the residents. The Minister must introduce new wind energy guidelines where the setback is ten times the height of the wind turbine. For example, a 150 m turbine would be setback 1,500 m or 1.5 km from residents. The most critical things for consideration are the potential impact the noise generated will have on residents in close proximity, the associated effects on sleep and subsequent health, the potential for shadow flicker on residential homes, the overall impact on the landscape, the general amenity of the residents and the loss of tourism and economic benefits.

Coillte is the national company that organises and runs the timber industry. I am concerned by the fact Coillte has been approached by a German company with a proposal to develop wind turbines in my area. The German company is only interested in erecting wind turbines in the area. The project would have a detrimental effect on the communities in the area - for instance, Aghagad, Aghagower, Bracklin, Carrowkeel, Cornaveagh, Creemully, Aghagad Beg and Derryhippo, County Roscommon. A major project has been put forward by the local action group. It has met practically every week over the past number of weeks in order to put forward a very good policy decision or request to Coillte, which I hope will be considered in the very near future. I call on Coillte to desist from dealing with the wind farm proposal for the area. I also ask the Minister to introduce guidelines as quickly as possible. The guidelines are a number of years out of date. I look forward to the Minister responding in a positive manner with new planning guidelines for wind turbines that will be erected in the future.


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