A new energy strategy for Kerry will see whole swathes of the county earmarked for windfarms – but not in top scenic areas.
The initiative coincides with a decision by An Bord Pleanála last week to approve the county’s highest turbines near Castleisland.
Over 70,000 hectares of land had been identified as suitable for wind, water, and other energy sources before a council meeting yesterday to discuss the new strategy.
However, “a lack of connectivity” to the grid is still hampering windfarm development, the meeting heard.
Kerry is only the second local authority, after Mayo, to develop a renewable energy strategy.
Wind turbine heights are increasing and the international trend is for “increasingly smaller numbers of taller turbines laid out in large windfarms”, the strategy states.
The planned 28 turbines in the Cordal-Castleisland projects are each 135m high. However, smaller micro farms servicing single industries were also in demand, it emerged.
Windfarms will be concentrated along Kerry’s Cork and Limerick borders. with particular focus on Gneeveguilla and Rathmore in the east of the county, and the stretch between Tarbert and Brosna to the north. They are designated as “strategic areas” where windfarms are particularly suitable.
The large belt of the Abbeydorney/Listowel/Lixnaw axis will also be open for consideration.
However, only five areas can be developed in south Kerry, according to the plan. They are east of Cahersiveen and in the uplands, east of Kilgarvan.
Overall, 40% of Kerry was ruled out due to its ecology along with national and European landscape designations.
Wind speed, proximity to grid connection, and landscape sensitivity were the factors in deciding on the strategy, the council’s senior planner Marguerite Enright said. “A lot of the land zoned is in North Kerry, ecologically it’s not that sensitive,” she said.
Up to Dec 2011, planning was granted for 375 turbines capable of generating almost 712mw of electricity.
However, 203 of the planned turbines are not yet constructed. The proposed strategy to go before the public for consultation states: “There is a disconnect between land use planning and grid transmission planning.”
Cllr Toireasa Ferris (SF) congratulated the council in developing a renewable energy strategy but predicted it would be controversial.
Cllr Norma Foley (FF) said the process of public consultation in drawing up the strategy needed to be more aggressive in order to attract interest.