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The big wind energy money machine

The following is an open letter to the people of Donegal from the Glenties Windfarm Information group who claim their views and concerns have not been listened to while the interests of the wind farm development has shaped tbe future of development in the county.

“Evidence has come to light this week that the Irish Wind Energy Association’s lobbying contacts with Donegal County Council are closer and deeper rooted than previously understood.

The information uncovered relates to the council’s controversial decision on June 6th to zone 2,363 townlands in the county as “preferred for wind farm development” and to abolish all protections for private households from wind farm developers wanting to site their turbines close to family homes.

The issue arose in the weeks prior to June 6th, when a few of Donegal’s councillors, mindful of the inadequacy of the existing SOOm “setback” from a wind turbine to an occupied dwelling, had signalled their intention to move a “material alteration” to the recently revised County Development Plan and proposed increasing that setback to a minimum of 1 kilometre. However, on the day of the debate and bowing to the recommendations of the County Manager the move was out-voted, and all set back distances were abolished, resulting in exactly what the IWEA had requested in their letters and presentations to the Council’s officers. The situation now is that, unless or until the G?vernment steps in, any massive industrial wind turbine in Donegal can be sited wherever it is most convenient for the developer with total disregard for the residents of Donegal. (It must be noted in the interests of balance that all applications to erect turbines are subject to planning permission)

This bizarre and surprising outcome was no doubt facilitated by the County Manager’s decision to invite the lWEA to address his colleagues and to allow a presentation from a technical college running courses in wind energy technology – yet to deny the same opportunity to a group of concerned citizens wanting to express their concerns to their elected representatives. This group included Dr Micheal Cooke, GP, Glenties who requested a meeting with Mr Neely, Co Manager to elucidate to him the medical dangers and the possible consequent litigation scenarios.

All of this against a background in which DCC was recently criticised by An Taisce for its arbitrary approach to planning controls, and while a scheme at Glenties, Donegal, for 22 three hundred foot turbines within two kilometres of the town centre, has attracted a record number of objections lodged with An Bord Pleanala.

At a time when the UK government is backtracking on its own onshore wind energy programme, our own government and our County Council are going in the opposite direction.

The Irish Wind Energy Association whose expertise has guided Donegal County Council, is a commercial lobby group representing investors and developers who will build wind farms wherever they see a profit to be made.

As revealed by the Sunday Business Post last year, when they reported on the financing of Sorne Hill Wind Farm, (also in Donegal) this can be up to 60 millions in profit, to be shared between the developers and their backers – all the money coming, ultimately from the Irish taxpayer and electricity consumer.

Recent press articles have also reported that hundreds of millions of Euro of Irish pension funds have been sent overseas, to be invested in investment funds like AMP, who in turn then use the money to pay excessive prices to buy into Irish wind farms, so those profits then feed back to the developers and their cronies, and the funds can look forward to growing returns as Ireland’s electricity costs soar.

So far the arrangement has been a cosy one for everyone involved (except of course for the Irish taxpayer and protesting householders) with financial intermediaries, big accountancy firms, specialist consultancies, “energy advisers”, PR firms, and local landowners and speculative investors all doing very well from the taxpayer’s borrowings from bailout funds. The result of all these machinations is an unhealthy climate of opportunism, profiteering and misinformation, with senior members of Government preferring to either look the other way, in the interests of meeting rashly agreed “green energy” targets, or preferring not to ask questions.

There is no proof that the IWEA or DCC have done anything actually illegal but the documents show just how far this lobby group financial interests of it members.

“All this is just the tip of the iceberg”, said one angry member of CREWE (the recently formed national Campaign for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy) it’s happening all over the country, it’s just that Donegal’s case is the most blatant. Those opposed to wind farms on principle, say that onshore wind farms have little to do with clean, cheap energy, because onshore wind farms are actually uneconomic, unreliable, divisive to communities, damaging to the environment and do not create any long term local employment. Rather, they say the “march of the wind turbines)” is led by the massive profits to be made, underpinned by political expediency.

But perhaps the most shocking revelation regarding the complicity of senior politicians, is the evidence of just how far the vested interests will go to pursue their own ends, when a perfectly reasonable and sensible measure (Senator Kelly’s Wind Turbines bill) intended to offer some protection to households living near to a turbine, is being deliberately frustrated by the greed of these profit-driven speculators, aided and abetted by local authorities – while central government looks the other way. They look the other way because many of them are themselves complicit, knowingly or by neglect, in the massive profiteering going on.

We need a Moriarty type tribunal of enquiry into the whole scandal of onshore wind energy schemes now – before it’s too late” he said.