The Irish Wind Energy Association has confirmed that it is lobbying against a Private Members’ Bill by Senator John Kelly (Labour) that would place mandatory restrictions on the distances of wind turbines from homes.
Kenneth Matthews, the association’s chief executive, told The Irish Times that the proposed legislation would have a “repressive” effect on the development of wind energy by substantially reducing the number of potential development sites.
As a result of the scattered nature of housing in the countryside, the measures in the Bill to set minimum distances for turbines in relation to occupied houses “would effectively sterilise significant development sites in Ireland” for wind energy.
“We strongly believe that appropriate separation distances should be set during the planning process in the context of Department of the Environment guidelines,” he said, adding these set a minimum distance of 500m “or closer with the consent of the landowner”.
Under Mr Kelly’s Bill, which has received support from all sides in the Seanad, this would apply only to small turbines. Larger ones, with tip heights of 100m to 150m or more, would have to be located a minimum of 1.5km to 2km from people’s homes.
But Mr Matthews said no other European country imposed mandatory separation distances. “The issue was brought up in the UK, but it didn’t go anywhere. Any repressive legislation that doesn’t line up with what the rest of Europe is doing would be very negative.”
He said the restrictions would be viewed by the industry as “inappropriate, unnecessary and burdensome – not just by big developers, but also by local communities participating in wind farm schemes, land lease payments and local infrastructure upgrades”.
Mr Matthews said a recent study commissioned by the association showed that 25 to 30 per cent of investment in wind projects “is retained in the local economy” – with jobs provided not only in construction of turbines, but also in their maintenance.
A submission by the association to TDs and Senators emphasises that renewable energy development “is a vital part of Ireland’s strategy to tackle two major challenges facing us today – ensuring a secure supply of energy and combating climate change”.
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