It was the humming sound of a wind turbine at 750 metres which certainly stood out to the hundreds of people who turned up at the information meetings both at Gneeveguilla and Ballydesmond.
While Kerry County Council has refused planning to Silverbirch Renewables Ltd for 14 wind turbines which have a height of 150 metres, and which would have extended across 15 individual landholdings, the Sliabh Luachra Awareness Group are not resting on their laurels as they are of the view that an appeal will be launched to An Bord Pleanala.
At the information evening in Ballydesmond, Fred O’Sullivan’s stall garnered a lot of attention. He had a detailed presentation on the sheer size of the turbines. To clearly show the mammoth height of the turbines, he had outlined how the Cathedral in Killarney is 80.30 metres in height but the proposed turbines are 60 metres higher than this again. To bring it closer to home, a two storey house is far less than 20 metres in height.
“All night people kept looking at the slides and they kept asking to see the slide about the Cathedral in Killarney as everyone knows the sheer height of that. Then to see it on a graph with the proposed turbines next to it really brings the picture home of the scale of these turbines,” Fred told The Corkman.
He also had a map of where each turbine would go and they were dotted less than 1km from people’s homes.
“If a turbine is in the southside of a house then there would very likely be flicker as the sun rises in the east and it sets in the west,” he said.
“For the entire night we played the humming sound of a turbine at 750 metres and you could clearly see for people it was annoying – but that was our entire point to show everyone just what it is like to be a near a turbine. It is worth pointing out that the proposed turbines are to be placed 500 metres from people’s homes, so the sound would without question be worse,” he said.
He felt the information evenings went exceptionally well as people could move around from information stall to information stall and ask questions.
“It was great to have such visual effects such as the humming sound and the flicker as well as lot of environmental information on barn owls who are across Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla. Bird Watch Ireland puts rings on the young owls to track them and this has been going on in this region for years. We need to protect the environment which we are living in,” said Fred.
He said the format of the night worked very well as people could move around the room and ask questions at the relevant information stalls whether it was the impact on their home, to environmetal and visual concerns.
Shaun O’Rourke of the Sliabh Luachra Awareness Group said: “We sent out 1,000 letters to every home in both Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla and some residents particularly those in Lisheen had absolutely no idea that planning had been sought for turbines of 150 metres high. People need to know what exactly what is going on and that is why we held the information evening on both nights.”
Worryingly, he said that it has recently come to his attention that a council meeting was held where it was asked was 500 metres the minimum set back of a turbine from a home.
“I was told that there is no minimum distance set back in the Kerry County Development Plan. The 500 metres is null and void and that would mean that a turbine measuring 150 metres in height could be plonked right outside your front door is completely and totally alarming,” he said.
Guidelines are up in the air
There is no provision made in the Kerry County Development Plan for a minimum distance of the erection of “monstrous” turbines from family homes.
This has been described as “ludicrous” and “damaging to families” by a father of five who is one of more than 50 objectors who recently won their first battle against Silverbirch Renewables Ltd from erecting 14 “monstrous” turbines across Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla.
Shaun O’Rourke of the Sliabh Luachra Awareness Group said the recently held Killarney Municipal District meeting left councillors horrified to learn that there is no minumum distance of the erection of huge wind turbines in the CDP (County Development Plan).
In fact, the original 2006 Energy Development Guidelines, which relate to noise and shadow flicker still apply. The 2006 development guidelines also don’t set a minimum distance between turbines and homes.
This is a major bone of contention for home-owners not just in the Sliabh Luachra region but across the country.
At the municipal meeting in Kerry, councillors said they were “astonished” that 150 metre high turbines were being located 500 metres from residents doors. However, they are demanding that large turbines, compared to the height of Dublin’s Spire, should be a minumum distance of 10 times their height, or at least 1.2km from family homes. Telecommunication masts are governed by a 1km rule but there isn’t any provision in the CDP on wind turbines.
Mr O’Rourke said: “The 500 metres is null and void and that would mean that a turbine measuring 150m could be plonked right outside your front door and this is completely and totally alarming.” The community in Sliabh Luachra are calling for a minimum 2km distance.
He said: “These turbines are of a monsterous size. People in both Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla need to urgently realise that their lives could be changed for the worse.”
His own home is 500 metres from one of the proposed turbines.
Separately, Deputy Brendan Griffin (FG) in a Dail question asked Minister Simon Coveney, (Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government) when guidelines governing wind turbines will be produced. In a lengthy written reply, Minister Coveney stated he has been liaising closely with Denis Naughten, Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment on the review of the 2006 Energy Development Guidelines, and both of them intend to provide a “detailed update to the Government” within the next few weeks.
He also stated that while the proposals for revisions to the 2006 guidelines will be available shortly they will not come into effect until early 2018. “In the meantime the current 2006 guidelines remain in force,” stated Minister Coveney.