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Windfarm warning for Kildare farmers

Farmers have been advised by a community group involved in energy politics to consider carefully any contracts they sign to place wind farms on their land.

Responding to the recent announcement by Element Power that negotiations were going on with landowners in Kildare and nearby counties to locate wind turbines on land, Joe Caulfield, a spokesperson for Turn180, said that farmers could leave themselves open to legal liabilities as result of placing.

Explaining his viewpoint, Mr. Caulfield said his group (www.turn180.ie) was initially set up to express scepticism about global warming.

It has expressed views on green energy in relation to that.

Mr. Caulfield, who comes from Mount Bolus in Offaly, told the Leader this week that it was likely that the bog areas of east Offaly and west Kildare would be the chosen locations for wind turbines.

But he and his group believe there could be difficulties with this.

He said Ireland’s rush for renewable energy has created a very generous investment climate for those in the sector.

He said farmers are likely to be tempted to place turbines on their land.

Mr. Caulfield said on average a farm could host between three and six turbines and he understood that E18,000 per turbine was being offered.

But, he added, the negative side of turbines have been ignored so far.

Firstly, the Irish authorities have bypassed the legally binding procedures relating to environmental assessment and democratic accountability.

He said “major failings” have occurred in relation to the Aarhus Convention on Access to Information, public participation in the planning process.

Mr. Caulfield said checks and consultations have been bypassed in other EU member states as well as Ireland but they could leave farmers exposed to compensation and they should make sure the companies involved are contractually liable for problems.

Windfarms have negatives, such as visual and noise problems and can have a significant impact on bird and bat populations.

He said human ill health has been associated with turbines, in particular their low frequency sound, something which was pointed out in a Dutch study.

Mr. Caulfield said farmers could be become liable under 2004 EU legislation (2004/35/EC) which requires operators, who could be a farmer or a company, to prevent or remedy damage.

He said it is “highly unfortunate” that “in the completely justified rush” to implement a policy which would see 4,000 wind turbines be developed that the “binding procedures” have been bypassed.

While the relevant State and regional authorities could be liable under the legislation, Mr. Caulfield said that farmers and landowners are also in the firing line in the future.”

Sean Perry, of Keating & Associates, a spokesperson for the project said that “many of the issues raised have been extensively dealt with on a national and international stage.”