Members of the public have until Friday, February 15th to contribute to new wind energy guidelines, specifically relating to distance from dwellings, noise and flicker effect.
The Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government, in conjunction with the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, intend to undertake a technical update of the guidance on noise (including separation distance) and shadow flicker in the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006. Updated guidelines taking into consideration views expressed will be issued.
‘This update is intended to ensure that the wind energy guidelines are supported by a robust and up-to-date evidence base on these issues to support wind energy development in a manner which safeguards residential amenity consistent with EU and national policy,’ the notice, which was published on January 30th, said.
Irish wind energy activist Val Martin, the Irish spokesman for European Platform against Wind Farms, says the 2006 guidelines were never updated despite the almost doubling of the size of wind turbines in the intervening period.
He summarises set-back distances given in the current guidelines as nine times the blade diameter for shadow flicker (strobe effect from the movement of the blades) and generally 500m for noise. However, he says these were not adhered to and ignored in many planning applications.
The guidelines, he says, did not take into account the growing size of wind turbines. ‘Our policy is that you cannot pick arbitrary figures,’ he says, explaining that a proper scientific analysis specific to each development needs to be carried out.
Attempts have yet to be successful in the houses of the Oireachtas to have set-back distance from wind energy developments based on the height of turbines, despite the efforts of both Senator John Kelly through a private members’ bill in the Seanad, and Deputy Willie Penrose in the Dáil.
UK noise consultant Dick Bowdler, who has worked extensively on both ‘sides’ of wind turbine development, says the current Irish guidelines are not based on any firm evidence about impact of turbine noise on people.
Mr Bowdler welcomes the review, saying: ‘It is most encouraging that the declared intention is to have “a robust and up-to-date evidence base” to the new guidance’.
‘This is something that has been missing in Ireland and in the UK and, indeed in some other countries round the world. Bearing in mind that the purpose of a noise assessment is to describe the impact on surrounding people, a good evidence base is vital and I hope that this aim will not get forgotten as the new guidelines are developed,’ Mr Bowdler told The Southern Star this week.
Submissions may be made to: Miriam Tiernan, Department of the Environment and Local Government, Custom House, Dublin 1. Telephone 01 8882000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will be subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
See the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006 at http://www.environ.ie.
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