One of the few certainties in our topsy-turvy world is that we must cut our dependence on energy generated by fossil fuels.
In Ireland, that imperative is exacerbated by the need to become less reliant on imported energy. The prospect of a wall of tariffs around Britain, the source of much of our energy, sharpens that urgency.
Those objectives may be reached, partially at least, by renewable energy. On a wind-swept island, that means investing considerable capital and faith in wind energy. A lucrative range of balance-the-books subsidies support those ambitions, as does the EU demand that Ireland generate 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
However, that need has not been matched by planning protections to stand between homeowners and wind farms that can destroy the quality of life enjoyed by communities, families, or individuals. Wind turbines are regulated by 2006 guidelines and permit turbines within 500m of private dwellings. Those protections are no longer adequate.
These matters will come to a head in April when a case in which a wind farm operator admitted liability over noise generated by turbines is listed for the High Court. Developments on this scale always bring difficulties, though these might be avoided if we insisted that wind farms can only be built at sea. Such an insistence would ensure the necessary technical advances and overcome many of today’s issues.
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