Opposition to wind farms in Britain is “the real reason” behind the plan to locate more than 2,000 turbines in the midlands, with the power they produce being exported across the Irish Sea, according to opponents.
Andrew Duncan, spokesman for the Lakelands Wind Information Group in Co Westmeath, said: “It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem – politically, they don’t want turbines in the British countryside.”
Last October, British energy minister John Hayes said his government would no longer have wind turbines imposed on rural communities while environment secretary Owen Paterson also referred to wind-farm “blight”.
Mr Duncan said the British government “appears to be delighted that Irish people seem less aware of the noise and visual pollution associated with wind turbines [and] don’t actually understand the scale of them”.
He was commenting on the the memorandum of understanding signed last Thursday by Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte and his British counterpart, Edward Davey, that will pave the way for electricity exports to Britain from Irish wind farms.
A number of companies are seeking to erect up to 2,300 wind turbines, each some 185m high, across five midland counties. The power they generated would be exported to Britain via the electricity interconnector with Wales.
Mr Duncan said the turbines needed to be so tall because the midlands had some of the lowest wind speeds in Ireland, yet it would still be cheaper for Britain to buy wind energy from the midlands than to build offshore wind turbines.
Richard Tol, economics professor at University of Sussex and formerly of the Economic and Social Research Institute, said it was a “good deal” from the British perspective, but for Ireland, it would amount to “giving away the family silver”.
Yvonne Cronin, spokeswoman for Crewe, a coalition of community groups against wind turbines too close to people’s homes, said it was “crazy” for the Government to be promoting wind energy in the absence of clear national guidelines.
The existing guidelines, dating from 2006, “do not take into account the tripling in size of wind turbines” to a height of 180m or more, yet she said most counties merely sought a minimum distance between a turbine and a family home of only 500m.
Ms Cronin stressed the importance of the Environment and Public Health (Wind Turbines) Bill introduced to the Dáil by former planning minister Willie Penrose, as it would set minimum distances from homes depending on the height of each wind turbine.
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