Though hundreds of wind turbines have already been erected around the country, with the largest number being in elevated areas of Cork and Kerry, a national debate on a vexed issue is just getting underway.
This debate has been triggered by opposition to plans to construct more than 2,000 turbines in the Midlands. Some members of local communities are up in arms over the impact such large-scale developments, to be spread over five counties, could have on their properties and their health.
Millions of euro are being spent on wind farms which, as well as generating electricity, are also expected to provide good returns for investors, landowners and developers. They’re not all in it to save the planet, and communities are only too well aware of the profit motive. People affected in some way by turbines feel that they, too, should benefit, especially if they have to put up with noise.
Seven families in the Banteer area of Co Cork are taking a landmark High Court civil action against a wind farm, claiming their health is being affected.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) says a significant number of independent bodies and government reports deny claims that wind farms have negative health impacts.
Some local politicians are calling for tangible benefits for communities. And, compensation packages, including financial payments, could provide the key to satisfying some objectors. Other suggestions are that communities be given a shareholding, or a share of the profits.
The IWEA also says it can dispel ten “top myths” and claims wind energy is not more expensive than conventional energy and delivers savings to the consumer. It further claims there’s no evidence in Ireland that the presence of a wind farm affects property prices and also rejects the noise argument. Another “myth’’ the IWEA wishes to counter is that large numbers of birds are killed by turbines. For every 10,000 bird deaths, less than one is caused by a wind turbine, it says, and the wind energy industry in Ireland has put procedures in place to enhance our understanding of birds and how they interrelate with wind turbines.
Some people feel turbines are ugly and a blot on the landscape. However, the IWEA quotes a 2008 Bord Fáilte survey of visitors which found that the vast majority saw wind energy as a positive development for Ireland.
No doubt such matters will be aired at the IWEA’s annual conference in Dublin on Wednesday and Thursday.
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