Irish wind developers should not underestimate the risks that “highly politicised” new planning guidelines could pose for the industry, writes Stephen Dunne from Kilkenny.
Keynote speakers told delegates at the Irish Wind Energy Association’s autumn conference this morning that reforms present a challenge but the industry is otherwise facing a bright future.
IWEA chairman Peter Harte said the wind sector is in bullish health but the contentious new guidelines, which have been delayed until early next year, could present a curveball.
“We shouldn’t underestimate the risk of this highly politicised process. We have to realise that the genie is out of bottle and (it) carries a lot of risk for the industry,” said Harte, who is also technology chief for Element Power in Ireland.
Dublin published draft guidelines late last year with day and night noise limits of 40 decibels, a minimum setback of 500 metres and the complete elimination of shadow flicker at wind farms.
Harte said the IWEA has been pushing for a “sensible conclusion” on the guidelines, particularly in relation to separation distances.
Some 91% of consultation responses came from Irish counties with very low levels of wind in operation, according to analysis by the trade body.
Turning to the issue of social acceptance, Harte said it was up to the industry to respond to false claims made by wind farm opponents. He called on industry to mobilise and get its message heard.
“We must recover confidence and pride in what we are doing and lose our fear about challenging the pseudo-science and garbage that is put out in the press,” he said.
“No matter where you are it shouldn’t be possible to have false information in papers go unchallenged.”
He added that the wind industry has to address claims of turbines being a health risk “before the idea that wind is bad for health or for property prices gets too embedded in Ireland”.
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