Building wind farms would be impossible in almost a third of the country under “deeply worrying” draft guidelines proposed by the Air Corps, the Government has been told.
The restrictions was described by an industry group as a “sterilisation” of land which would also have a “significant impact” on Ireland’s capacity to hit its renewable energy targets.
The guidelines, which have been seen by The Irish Times, show the Air Corps is “opposed to any wind farms or tall structures” in several areas used for military flying, and also in exclusion zones along motorways and national primary roads.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) has warned Minister for Defence Paul Kehoe the restrictions outlined in the position paper “have the potential to restrict wind-farm development in 29 per cent of the available land in the Republic of Ireland”.
“We have serious concerns about the impact some of the proposed measures might have for the future of the onshore wind industry in Ireland should they be implemented,” the energy body told Mr Kehoe, adding that Ireland was “already in a precarious position with respect to its targets and obligations to transition to a low carbon economy”.
“This is likely to have a significant impact on Ireland’s ability to reach its obligations with respect to the installation of renewable energy over the coming decades and therefore its ability to transition to a low-carbon economy by 2050 as set out in the Energy White Paper 2015.”
The industry body said that if introduced, the Air Corps guidelines would have “a significant impact on future onshore wind development in Ireland”. The IWEA said the suggested restrictions “are not based on any known national, European or international regulatory requirements”.
Of particular concern to the renewable lobby is a suggestion that wind-energy development be restricted around motorways and national primary roads. This would restrict development within a three nautical-mile boundary on either side of the roads, the IWEA said, resulting in a total “restriction corridor” of 11km.
“The proposal for a 3NM sterilisation around motorways and some national primary routes is also deeply worrying.”
The industry group said in its position paper, which was sent last November to the Minister, that it had identified several wind farms already operating within the proposed new limits, and said it would like to “better understand” what the impact is on the Air Corps of these developments.
In a statement, the Defence Forces said in order to maintain its capabilities “as well as the training of its personnel to carry them out, safe and protected airspace for all aircraft movements is essential.”
“The Irish Air Corps position paper… is a draft document that outlines the organisation’s concerns about the impact wind farm development may have on safety and capabilities.. [it] was compiled in line with international practice and takes into account the necessities to defend the state and carry out other roles.”
“The draft proposals request planning authorities, in certain areas, to engage in consultation to ensure any potential interference with operational requirements is minimised. Work is continuing with a view to reaching a final policy position,” the statement concludes.