Final planning permission has been granted for more than 400 wind turbines in just the past two years, according to an analysis of cases before An Bord Pleanála (ABP).
Given that the Irish Wind Energy Association estimates there are currently 1,800 turbines operating around the county, the figures indicate the rate at which wind turbines are becoming a feature of the Irish landscape.
An analysis of wind and wind turbine cases, conducted by ABP for the Irish Examiner, shows permission was granted for 412 individual turbines in 2013 and 2014, from single turbines up to projects incorporating 24 turbines.
However, there are indications within the figures and from experts that “one-off” or lower voltage turbines are less likely to be a feature of the wind sector in future, with a move towards larger wind farms that link directly into the energy grid.
Many of the more recent applications before ABP feature wind farms that form part of Strategic Infrastructural Development. Decisions are also pending regarding some larger projects, featuring more than 30 or 40 turbines, although one application for 400 turbines, lodged in December 2013, was withdrawn last October.
An Bord Pleanála stresses that the figures were indicative and not representative of all wind turbine and wind farm applications, some of which do not get referred to ABP.
A total of 157 cases for decision related to wind came before ABP in the two-year period.
Some 274 wind turbines were refused by ABP over the same two-year period, while a number of other applications were withdrawn, dismissed, or have a decision pending.
Although some local groups have campaigned against wind farms and economists have queried the expected economic impact of wind energy, Ireland is on target to meet its goal of 40% of renewable energy in electricity by 2020. That forms part of an overall EU-set target of 16% of renewable energy contribution of overall energy use by 2020, comprising transport, heat, and electricity.
One Irish company that specialises in constructing smaller, kilowatt turbines, C&F Tooling in Athenry, said they were increasingly working on overseas contracts in the UK, Italy, and even Japan. By contrast, many of the recent applications for wind farms here are for larger, megawatt turbines.
The Department of the Environment is currently revising the Wind Energy Guidelines, following public consultation, while the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources is preparing a Renewable Electricity Policy and Development Framework.
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