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Petition over proposed windfarm and battery units

A community petition is being compiled in the Múscraí Gaeltacht village of Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh to voice concern about a proposed new windfarm and battery storage development at the pass of Céim an Fhia, by a company owned by Michael Murnane, who has several other wind-farms in the mid-west Cork area.

Concerns being raised focus on the safety of battery-storage units; the height of the windmills and the claimed failure to consult with the local development committee, Coiste Forbartha Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh.

A view of the proposed site for the windfarm and battery storage compound at Curraglass

The proposed site for the windfarm/battery unit complex

Also questions have arisen about the level of the proposed annual community contribution by the developer. While the developer is proposing an annual contribution of €60,000, the application of the formula in the new guidelines suggest that the actual contribution could be as much as €180,000 per year.

The application for a windfarm and battery storage complex at Curraglass by Wing Leaf Ltd follows three applications for a similar development at the same site by Red Faze Limited, another company of which Michael Murane is a director, which were either defective, withdrawn or rejected.

There had been a wind-farm on the site up to three years ago, but it was decommissioned as the wind turbines were believed to be faulty.

There had been a condition for that development which called for the restoration of the site to its natural state after that wind-farm was decommissioned.

The village of Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh is just over 5km from the site of the proposed windfarm and battery storage complex at Curraglass, and locals have expressed fears if there were to be a fire at the battery storage complex, as each unit is capable of storing enormous amounts of wind-generated electricity, and it would be directly in the wind path of any smoke plumes from the scene.

On the previous wind farm, the turbines measured around 80metres high at the highest tip of the turbine blades. In the proposed development, these turbines would measure 178.5m at their highest tip.

The planning application was submitted on July 3. On the developer’s curraglassinfo.com website, there was a downloadable brochure issued in June of this year. On the same website the developers claim to have consulted the local community within 2km.

However the community in Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh, which is just 5km away, claim they were not consulted at all, even though the visual impact on their locality will be considerable, they feel.

In its planning application, Wing Leaf has promised to contribute €60,000 annually to the local community, which would amount to a total of €1.8m over the estimated 30-year lifetime of the project.

In the document it is proposed that the ‘Developer and the Community’ would set the criteria for the qualifying beneficiaries.

While the immediate 2km vicinity is sparsely populated, there is a school within 2km, Cappabue National School; and a GAA club which is located in Kealkill, which is approximately 15km from the site.

Both are mentioned as possible beneficiaries of the community gain element of the project.

There is no mention of Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh despite its proximity to the site of the proposed development.

New guidelines about community funds associated with wind-farms are due to come into force shortly, and under those guidelines wind-farm developers would have to make a community contribution in proportion to the amount of power.

If the formula under the new guidelines were to be applied, this would be considerably more than is being offered from the Wingleaf project, at €180,000 per year for 30 years or €5.4m in total.

This is a calculation based on a €2-per-megawatt-hour tariff.

The new rules also suggest that the company would make contributions to households within 500m and within 1km.

The community have until August 6 to make their submissions about the proposal to the County Council.

The full documentation is available on the County Council website, and the planning reference is 20350. The decision on the planning application for the latest proposed windfarm for the site at Derreendonee, Curraglass and Cappaboy Beg is due by August 27.