Environment Minister Alan Kelly’s plan to increase the distance between wind turbines and towns and villages will result in the “end of onshore wind”, according to his Cabinet and party colleague Alex White.
In his strongest comments on the row to date, Mr White said proposals to introduce a set-back distance of 1km would put jobs at risk and jeopardise the country’s renewable-energy targets.
“We have got to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy. Onshore wind has worked really well – are we going to close that down?” he asked in an interview with the Irish Independent.
The disagreement between the two Labour ministers has lasted several months and has meant that the issue has still not been resolved as the General Election looms.
Under pressure from powerful rural lobby groups, Mr Kelly has proposed that the distance between towns and villages and turbines should be set at around 1km.
Significant concern over wind farms has also been raised by the equine industry and horse trainers.
At present, the guideline is set at 500 metres but this is not mandatory. Mr White has proposed increasing this figure to 600 metres and introducing a mandatory element, which will be in place at 500 metres.
He said that in some places in Ireland turbines were located just 200-300 metres from homes. He added that as a minister he could not stand over a policy that would jeopardise the industry.
“If I was to go to government, sure the minister for energy would have to be asked, ‘How would this affect the energy policy?’
“And the minister for energy, no matter who he or she was, would say, ‘This is going to have an adverse impact. It will probably mean there won’t be any more wind farms.”