Opponents of a wind farm project have called for a national review of wind farm development which they describe as the “new construction boom”.
“Along with ghost estates, we are going to have ghost wind farms due to oversupply of targets, if and when subsidies end,” Cavan-based environmentalist Peter Crossan has warned.
Mr Crossan, part-time farmer and former chairman of the Irish Wind Energy Truth Alliance, and northeast GP Dr Kevin Deering, have lodged an appeal to permission for a wind farm approved for Knockranny, Moycullen, Co Galway, on the Connemara border.
The project, approved last year by Galway County Council, involves 14 turbines each of 140m (460ft) in height within one kilometre of seven houses.
Residents in the Knockranny area near Moycullen have submitted observations to the Crossan-Deering appeal, claiming that the proposed development was submitted to Galway County Council without any engagement with the public beforehand.
Up to 2 per cent of Co Galway has been designated as “strategic” or “acceptable in principle” for wind farm development, under a strategy adopted last year. But up to 18 per cent is also “open to consideration”.
The proposed Knockranny project by Western Power Developments Ltd on a hillside area overlooking the Galway-Clifden road also involves ancillary structures, including a control building, permanent meteorological mast of up to 80m in height, substation, access tracks and associated infrastructure across an area of almost 225sq m.
The residents argue that the turbines will be double the height of the proposed national children’s hospital in Dublin which An Bord Pleanála ruled against due to street height among other reasons.They argue that national guidelines on wind farms are out of date, as they were developed in 2006 when the average turbine height was in the 50m to 70m height range.
They say the development is close to the Connemara bog complex and in an area rich in archaeology. Moreover, they argue that the project’s peat slippage analysis in its environmental impact statement is flawed.
The Knockranny residents say they are not opposed to renewable energy and did not object to the 60-turbine wind farm recently approved for Cloosh valley in the Moycullen-Oughterard region.
The Cloosh scheme could become one of the State’s largest wind farms when built. It is backed by State forestry company Coillte with Scottish and Southern Energy and the Canadian-based Finavera Wind Energy.
In his appeal, Mr Crossan claims that the Knockranny project’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) is potentially in breach of the European Court of Justice 2007 ruling on EIAs. The court judgment related to a wind farm at Derrybrien, Co Galway, where the construction of a service road caused a major landslide on the blanket bog in 2003.
The court invalidated Irish law allowing local councils and An Bord Pleanála to grant retention for developments that failed to comply with the European Union directive on EIAs.
Western Power Developments Ltd did not respond when asked to comment on the appeal and observations last week.
However, Galway County Council had ruled that the area was most suitable for a wind farm, with excellent wind resources, access to the national grid, was a sufficient distance from properties and was outside areas that would have a landscape sensitivity issue.
Earlier this month, Taoiseach Enda Kenny stressed the potential of wind, wave and tidal renewables in the west when he endorsed Eirgid’s €240 million Grid West project to develop and upgrade the electricity transmission network in the west between now and 2025.
Deering and Crossan have objected to a number of wind farm developments across the State and have offered support to communities for appeals. Mr Crossan says he believes renewable policy should refocus towards greater support for wave and tidal energy to meet international targets.
“We need to take a step back and evaluate where we are going,” said Mr Crossan. “The 2020 targets for wind energy have already been met, based on what’s built and has planning approval.”