Wind turbine blades have been responsible for the deaths of at least three white-tailed sea eagles in the Kerry-Cork area, the National Parks and Wildlife Service has revealed in a report to An Bord Pleanála.
More than €1.5 million has been invested in the white-tailed sea eagle re-introduction programme based in the Killarney National Park, and it was now “at a very critical stage”, the wildlife service added, urging that planning permission for a major upland wind farm by ESB Wind Development Ltd, along the Kerry-Cork border be turned down.
Eagles flew from their valley roosts “upslope to upland wind farms” and were at risk of collision as they soared, the NPWS argued.
However An Bord Pleanála last week gave the go-ahead for the Grousemount windfarm which spans 32 townlands in Kerry and Cork. The ESB, while accepting eagles were sensitive to wind farms, rejected the objections of the wildlife service, saying they found eagles rarely frequented the area. There had been 30 eagle deaths since the reintroduction and the majority of these were due to poisoning, it said.
Some 100 sea eagle chicks were brought from Norway between 2007 and 2011 to the Killarney National Park. No more releases are planned, and breeding territories have been established from Kerry to Fermanagh and one male has set up home in Scotland.
The NPWS said the sea eagle was “particularly susceptible to collision with turbine blades,” saying 39 eagles had died in Norway at one large wind farm between 2005 and 2010.
“Three deaths due to turbine collision were recorded in Ireland and all of these deaths occurred at adjacent wind farms in 2011 and 2012,” it said.
Further deaths may have occurred as a result of collisions after 2012, the NPWS added.
The application by ESB Wind Development Ltd for the 38 turbine farm 17km northeast of Kenmare to 14km along the Cork border to the south west of Ballyvourney had been lodged directly with An Bord Pleanála last September as a strategic infrastructure development. The site area is 1,465 hectares of privately-owned land which the ESB will lease.
The board has granted permission for 25 years and the development is to commence within 10 years. The planning board has also assessed the costs associated with the application at more than €66,000, mainly associated with inspectors’ time.
The turbines will have a hub height of up to 80 metres (262ft), each with a 2.5-3.5 (MW) rating, on foundations and standings. The turbines will have a rotor diameter of up to 112 metres. The overall height of the structures will be up to 126 meters.
The board’s inspector found the turbines, in clusters, will be largely hidden although some will be visible from Moll’s Gap on the Ring of Kerry.
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