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Community groups whip up a wind farm storm

A grass-roots revolt against Communications Minister Pat Rabbitte’s plans to develop Ireland’s wind-farm industry is escalating.

The Sunday Independent has learnt that community groups have sprung up in Galway, Roscommon, Laois and Westmeath, where nine community associations have recently banded together, to demand a more “socially acceptable scale of wind-farm development”.

Concern is centred on the scale and size of the turbines, which, standing at 185 metres tall, are substantially higher than the landmark 121-metre Spire in O’Connell St.

There are also concerns that the proposals to build 2,500 turbines, which will be in clusters of 50 giant turbines, will destroy the landscape.

Significantly, opponents of the new wind-farm proposals have secured the support of the Independent Labour TD Willie Penrose and two Labour senators, John Whelan and John Kelly.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Whelan expressed particular concern over current guidelines that state that wind farms can be constructed within 500 metres of domestic houses. He warned that such guidelines were “totally inadequate, unsafe and obsolete considering the scale of the wind farms and turbines now being proposed”.

He has, with the support of Mr Kelly and Mr Penrose, tabled a Seanad Bill that aims to curb proposals that will see “hundreds of pylons, thousands of turbines and a spider’s web of high-voltage cables being driven out on top of us”.

He noted that “women with young families in particular are not at all supportive of the concept of having a lunar landscape of high-voltage pylons and power lines that are bigger than the Millennium Spire in their back yards”.

Though Mr Rabbitte is an enthusiastic supporter of wind-farming, Mr Whelan, who wants to see any turbines being located at a minimum distance of 2km from residential homes, reserved his most stringent criticism for the Irish Farmers’ Association.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Whelan claimed “the IFA have abandoned rural communities with their unbridled backing for giant wind farms across large tracts of the West and the Midlands”.

And he warned that “before it is too late, the IFA should also take the opportunity to revisit its tacit support for selected landowners to sign up secretive contracts with wind farm companies, which are imposing dubious confidentiality clauses and promising the sun, moon and stars in return for land rights and options”.

The senator added that “if they don’t, the IFA will find itself involved in the wrong side of a war, which will leave the turf-cutters’ dispute looking like a teddy bears’ picnic”.