Sligo and Leitrim locals opposing 10 new 170m wind turbines have expressed concerns that the plans are being assessed based on out of date guidelines introduced when most turbines were a third of the size.
The Government last year published and put to public consultation new draft guidelines governing wind energy developments, but until these are finalised the 2006 guidelines remain in place.
Semi-State forestry firm Coillte plans to erect the turbines on Corry mountain on the Sligo-Leitrim border. It has applied to Sligo and Leitrim county councils for planning permission.
Community group Wind Aware Dromahair (WAD) is opposed to the move. The group said it had been assured in 2018 that the development would be in line with new draft guidelines. These take into account issues related to the increased size of wind turbines.
“It now transpires that Coillte’s application to Leitrim and Sligo County Councils is based on the 2006 guidelines,” said WAD’s spokesperson Adrienne Diamond.
She said these guidelines were introduced when the average turbine height was 50m to 65m rather than the 170m proposed. Ms Diamond said the 2006 guidelines were no longer fit for purpose, and described the height of new turbines as being “on an industrial scale”.
The community group said there were already about 100 turbines on the landscape in this area from Arigna to Dromahair, and has argued that an additional 10 on such a large scale would cause a risk of landslides .
Ms Diamond said 40 homes would be directly impacted if the turbines are built.
She said undisturbed bog was widely recognised as an important carbon storage reservoir. “How can the destruction of native bog and its replacement by thousands of tons of concrete and steel be regarded as being environmentally friendly?”
Last December the government opened a public consultation process on proposed revisions to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines.
A spokesman for Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said the department was currently undertaking a focused review of the 2006 guidelines which was addressing a number of key aspects, including noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections.
He said almost 500 submissions had been received, “many of which are extremely detailed and technical in nature”.
New guidelines would be prepared following detailed analysis of the submissions. “ In the meantime the current 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines remain in force,” said the spokesman.
Coillte confirmed that planning applications for the wind farm were recently submitted to both Leitrim and Sligo councils, but did not want to comment while they were being determined..
The company said the application followed extensive community engagement.
A spokeswoman said the project had the potential to generate renewable electricity capable of powering approximately 35,000 Irish homes .
The company said that if the project received planning there would be a significant community benefit fund put in place for the lifetime of the project, which would employ up to 100 people during its construction.
Eighth of the turbines would be located in Co Leitrim and two in Co Sligo.
Both local authorities said it would not be appropriate to comment on a live planning application.
A spokesman for Sligo County Council said a planning authority was required to make a decision on a planning application within eight weeks.
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