A number of concerns over the proposed Derrinlough windfarm outlined by Offaly County Council this week will form part of its submission to An Bord Pleanala on the project.
In late February, Bord na Móna Powergen submitted a formal planning application for a 21-turbine windfarm between Cloghan, Fivealley, Kilcormac and Banagher, directly to An Bord Pleanala under legislation governing Strategic Infrastructure Developments (SID), the fast track planning process for large scale development which essentially bypasses the local authority planning process.
It means Offaly County Council will not make the final planning decision on the project but can make a submission, which An Bord Pleanala is required to have regard to but not be bound by.
Offaly County Council has prepared a 60-page draft report on the proposed development.
Planning permission is being sought by Bord na Móna Powergen for 21 wind turbines, for 10 years, which will have an operational life of 30 years.
The wind turbines in question are 185 metres in height.
The Derrinlough site is located on two bogs, Clongawny and Drinagh, part of the Boora Bog group, which are no longer in peat production. It will feature two clusters of turbines. All the turbines will be linked by internal roads.
The closest settlements to the site are Cloghan, which is located approximately 2km to the north, and Fivealley, which is located approximately 2.5km to the south.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the council earlier this week, Carroll Melia, acting senior executive planner, said the visual impact of the project would be “sizeable”.
The council also wishes to have concerns over noise impact in the Cloghan area addressed.
Concerns have also been included in the submission over shadow flicker and the cumulative effect on five properties.
While a community gain fund of €10 million has been proposed, this is based on energy output from the wind farm.
“Details on the breakdown in funding hasn’t been included and that is something we feel needs to be addressed,” Mr Melia said.
Cllr Eamon Dooley agreed that the community gain aspect of the project is a “very loose arrangement”.
Similar concerns were voiced by Cllr John Leahy who said details were “vague” on this.
However, he added that Bord Na Móna has to be complimented on their approach which he said had been “honest” and open.
“A couple of million (Euros),” will have to be spent on the 18km access road and walkway, and he hoped this would not take away from the community fund. Mr Melia said his understanding was this would not be the case. He hoped there would be more information on the actual amount involved in the community gain fund. “They should be honest and tell us if it’s €1million so we know what we are playing around with,” Cllr Leahy said.
Concerns were also voiced by Cllr Leahy on the eventual decommissioning aspect of the project and the value of the scrap.
While the project was not in his electoral area, Cllr Liam Quinn said the experience of such projects in north Offaly, including Mount Lucas, “overall had been positive”.
“I agree with Cllr Leahy. I don’t think a lot of thought has been put into the decommissioning of this, as we will be responsible,” Cllr Quinn said.
The fact that Offaly County Council will “have very little input” on the planning process, with the decision to be made by An Bord Pleanala, was something which Cllr John Carroll felt was regrettable. He also outlined concerns about noise, light flicker and visual impact.
“At what stage do we say we are at saturation point in the area for turbines?” Cllr Carroll asked.
On the community gain fund, Cllr John Clendennen said he would have preferred if they were given a minimum and maximum figure.
He hoped to see such developments linked through a greenway with projects such as nearby Lough Boora. “This could create extra jobs through coffee and bike shops,” he said.
It was regrettable that the decision will be made by An Bord Pleanala, Cllr Neil Feighery said. The windfarm will be “very imposing on the landscape”.
“The turbines seem to be increasing in size, all the time. When will they be too high?” Cllr Feighery asked.
Any resolutions from councillors were due by Thursday of this week, to be included with the council’s submission to An Bord Pleanala.