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Let-off for wind farm in excess power probe

A wind farm controlled by a company whose directors include meat baron Bert Allen has escaped punishment over “unauthorised” construction and failing to have proper consent for all its power-generation, a watchdog has ruled.

The Co Wexford wind farm did not have the necessary consent to generate all the 42MW of power it could harness, according to the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU). But following an investigation, the CRU has decided that it is not in the public interest to take enforcement action.

“In 2016, CRU was notified that unauthorised construction of part of a wind farm development had potentially taken place a number of years prior,” it said in a determination published this week.

It added that the information had come to light when the Ballywater Wind Farm, ultimately owned by the Allen family’s Lanber Group, was being sold and due diligence was being undertaken by the buyer.

In late 2015, it was bought by energy firm Gaelectric from Lanber. Mr Allen was a major shareholder in Gaelectric at the time and remains a shareholder in the now troubled firm.

Mr Allen and his family have extensive business interests in sectors including property.

They sold their 50pc stake in Slaney Foods in 2016 to Larry Goodman’s ABP for an estimated €250m. The other 50pc is owned by Fane Valley Group.

In 2015, Gaelectric paid €43.8m in cash to purchase three wind farms, including the Ballywater operation.

The CRU said that the Ballywater Wind Farm had consent for just 31.5MW of output, which had been secured in 2005, but that all other statutory consents for the full 42MW development were held.

The CRU said there had been a “lack of resultant negative impact” on the grid system in the intervening period.

“The responsibility for acquiring all relevant and proper consents rests with applicants,” noted the CRU in its determination.

“To further monitor compliance with this, on foot of the above incident CRU has put in place a process with Eirgrid that enables both parties to identify such non-compliances in order to take action,” it added.

“This process has been in place since June 2018 and is part of the Eirgrid assessment for a generation station operating certificate.”