The firm behind a €30m wind farm planned for a bog just north of Monasterevin has proposed a community benefit fund worth “in the region of €125,000 a year”, a spokesperson confirmed this week.
“A fundamental aspect of [this] will be to support proposals which have garnered local support, and we will be guided by feedback from the community regarding the allocation of this funding,” he added.
The Norwegian firm Statcraft has been consulting residents over recent months in the Quinnsboro and Ummeras townslands – about 5kms north of Monasterevin, between the canal and the Barrow and the Bracknagh (L102) and Rathangan (R414) roads – to inform them of their plan for the turbines.
The five 169m high turbines planned for this location would cost in the region of €30m, and be able to provide 25 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power 17,000 homes or almost a quarter (23%) of the occupied properties in the whole of County Kildare.
Originally, the Statcraft plan was for seven turbines, but they have amended this to five, and have sited them such that the nearest property is more than two-thirds of a kilometer (680m) away. There are 12 houses within 800m, and 53 properties within a kilometer radius.
“We’ve changed our consultation approach, and it’s not just us, it’s everybody [in renewable energy],” said the spokesperson.
“We decided to call personally to houses and talk to people rather than host a big meeting to give them context on what we’re trying to do, and provide good, proper, accurate information,” he added.
The proposed community fund is planned to dovetail with a number of local tourism initiatives such as the Umeras Peatlands Park, the Grand Canal Blueway and the Bono-backed Ballykelly Mills distillery at Minch Norton.
“Given that these projects are in the area, we are assessing our proposals from this perspective and we are confident that the wind farm will not only coexist with them, but through ongoing engagement, we can identify significant additional opportunities for the area,” suggested the spokesperson.
Because of the remoteness of the proposed turbine locations, the narrowness of the local roads, and the archaeological significance of some of the canal bridges in toe area, Statkraft says it is preparing a traffic management plan to accompany its finalised planning application – expected on a council desk before the end of October.
Statkraft are also compiling a project newsletter update which will be distributed in the local area in advance of planning submission.
Unsurprisingly, there is still some significant local opposition – as one usually finds with projects like these. However, it seems to be divided on three fronts, and only one formal meeting in opposition has been held to date.
“We have been in communication with Statkraft requesting that they have an open forum community meeting to present their plans [and] they have repeatedly come back to say no, that it’s their policy to engage on an individual basis with residents in a one-to-one setting,” said a local opponent.
“This approach only benefits Statkraft, as the majority of people do not know the details around the very negative aspects living in close proximity to mega turbines can cause,” they continued.
“Proper community consultation can only be achieved in an open forum meeting between the community and the developer, where the community as a whole can listen to informed questions being put to the developer and the responses to those questions,” they added.
“People can then make an informed decision as to what they wish to see happen to their community.
“Meeting people at doorsteps with stock answers that everything will be grand, just doesn’t meet this standard, and is not open and transparent as called for in the guidelines”.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding