Plans to build 2,300 wind turbines across the midlands to supply electricity to the UK were described last night at a public meeting as an “outrage”.
Local people in the Co Laois village of Ballyroan called for a moratorium on Government proposals to locate wind turbines in five midland counties until proper environmental assessments take place.
In January a memorandum of understanding between the Minister for Energy Pat Rabbitte and the British secretary for energy and climate change Edward Davey was signed which could see the export of 5,000 megawatts of electricity for export to the British market.
Andrew Duncan, of the Lakeland wind farms information group, said the Government was behaving as if the decision to locate so many wind turbines in five counties was a “done deal. We are the pawns in a very large game.”
He said both Government parties were closely involved in the two companies involved in the proposals.
Local people are fearful that the turbines involved will be up to 185 metres high, higher than the Dublin Spire.
Mr Duncan said such turbines had only been seen at sea before and were “monsters”.
“It’s been planned for a long time back. You’ve got to get up and get angry,” he said.
“It is going to railroaded through the people of the midlands unless we rise up.”
Engineer Pat Swords, who is taking a case to the High Court in relation to the European Union’s attitude to renewable energy targets, said local people were entitled under the terms of the Aarhus convention to be consulted about the proposals.
He said wind energy does not work and the people of the midlands were being “sacrificed on the altar of a populist cult”.
Local resident Henry Fingleton told the meeting that both companies had been signing contracts with farmers and had imposed a confidentiality clause on the contracts.
The proposals were already proving divisive in local communities, he claimed.
Mr Fingleton said the companies involved had been on the ground for five to six months and were “lining up their ducks in a row”. They had no reason to seek local planning permission as the wind turbines were regarded as strategic infrastructure and went straight to An Bord Pleanála.
He read a letter from an elderly Roscommon couple whose lives had been made a misery by living within 700 metres of a wind turbine.
Mr Fingleton said it had been established beyond doubt that turbines created a low frequency noise which was detrimental to those living close to them.
He expressed puzzlement at the decision to locate so many wind turbines in the midlands, which did not have the highest wind speeds in Ireland. He said there might be a perception that midlands people were a “soft touch” and the area had no big tourism infrastructure. “We’re nice and we just get on,” he said.
Colm Fingleton from the Ratheniska, Timahoe and Spink (RTA) sub-station action group said the new sub station being built by Eirgrid was going to be used as a midland hub for renewables, which was never discussed during public consultations.
“We asked them why they are building a facility that would power Dublin, but Eirgrid wouldn’t tell us,” he said.
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