Locations for wind farms in Laois have yet to be identified, according to the company who last week announced an €8 billion investment in wind farms across five counties, including Laois.
Element Power say that their Greenwire project will see 40 new wind farms constructed in the midland counties of Laois, Meath, Westmeath, Kildare and Offaly, which will channel energy to the UK market via dedicated sub-sea cables. It says the initiative will create 3,000 long-term jobs and as many as 10,000 jobs in the construction phase.
Peter Harte, who is chief technical officer with Element Power, says that the company hasn’t ruled out any part of Laois as a location for the wind farms.
“We will have to look at the county development plan and see what areas have environmentally sensitive area designations. We haven’t ruled out any areas, but I would say in Laois we would be looking more to the north of the county’’. Mr Harte says that discussions have started already with some landowners.
“At present, we are talking with some landowners as well as local TDs and councillors. Anything we do will be within the guidelines set out by the Department of the Environment.
Those guidelines have been set out with noise reduction as the main factor in the design of a wind farm. For example, the guidelines state that a turbine shouldn’t be any closer than 500 metres from a house and set back more than 100 metres from roads”.
Mr Harte went on to add that over the next six months they would be identifying the locations for the farms, consulting the public and proceeding to lodge a planning application.
“As part of the consultation process, we will have localised information sessions.
After we have done this, we will kick off with a year-long series of environmental and ecological studies before lodging a planning application at the end of next year. Hopefully, then, by 2014, we will be out of the planning process with construction then starting in 2015 or 2016. The wind farms will hopefully be up and running by 2017 or 2018”.
The company has said that there will be no overhead power lines associated with the project.
“All our lines will be underground and we would envisage that the majority of the lines will be running alongside third class roads. This will mean that there will be no disruption to primary and secondary routes.
A typical wind farm consists of on average 20 turbines and the density of the turbines on an area of land is conditional on the land itself.
Each landowner will be paid an annual rent for having the turbines on their land and this won’t affect their ability to farm the land or sell it as they would normally do.
If a land owner decides they don’t want the wind farm on their land, then that is it. We can’t, and won’t, force them into having the wind farm”.
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