A total of 460 houses in Raharney and Ballivor are within two kilometres of the proposed Ballivor Wind Farm, which, if it gets the go-ahead, will be built on the border of Westmeath and Meath.
Both communities plan to pull together to fight for a better renewable alternative, one that would generate employment directly for the area, instead of one which they feel will be used to power large data centres in Dublin.
In Raharney concerned residents have met to discuss Bord na Móna Powergen’s plans to build 26 turbines of 200m in height on Ballivor Bog, which takes in land at Ballivor, Raharney, Bracklyn, Carranstown and Lisclogher.
This is the second time the community in Raharney has had to take on a wind energy company, and representatives say BnM’s plans surpass anything seen before in both scale and proximity to dwellings, and will have major repercussions for residents with regard to noise and visual impact.
A spokesperson for the group, Daryl Kennedy, believes the energy generated by wind farms the size and scale proposed by Bord na Móna will be used to supply data centres in Dublin.
“The wind energy sector claims wind farms are needed to meet Ireland’s EU renewable energy targets for 2030 – however, the power currently generated by existing wind farms is enough to supply the domestic market in Ireland for many years to come,” Mr Kennedy said.
“Wind farms provide no long-term jobs, only during the construction phase. So these enormous turbines will be constructed in our rural community to supply power to large data centres in Dublin, which, while they generate big bucks from foreign direct investment, provide few jobs or long-term employment opportunities for anyone.”
Mr Kennedy also headed up the Killucan Raharney Wind Information Group (KRWIG) eight years ago.
“The information we’ve received from Bord na Móna is very glossy, they very much appear to be listening to what we have to say as a community but they will push their plans through regardless. On the Westmeath side, there’s a feeling of, ‘Oh here we go again!’, On the Meath side they are very concerned and anxious because that community haven’t had to deal with this type of imposition on their environment before.”
Ten years ago the villages of Raharney and Killucan banded together to fight two separate companies, Mainstream and Element Power, who had planned to build extensive wind farms in the area, to generate power for export to the UK market.
“While we won the fight in 2014, the wind energy sector has continued to develop and progress, and no doubt we have an even bigger fight on our hands now,” says Mr Kennedy.
“We as a group, have done extensive work on this in the last 10 years. We would support a mix of renewable energy – wind, solar and biomass. We’ve lobbied on this, and we attended an Oireachtas Committee the last time, laying out the facts and making clear that wind turbines 10 times the tip height, and the noise they generate, would breach WHO (Word Health Organisation) guidelines on noise.
“But the wind companies have done a lot of lobbying of government in those intervening years, driving the campaign that our main source of renewable energy source should be wind. As we’ve enough energy to power our domestic market, it is clear that the main driver behind this is the data centres.
“What happens is the data centres set up contracts with renewable energy companies to buy so many megawatts of energy off them for a certain time period. That enables data centres to put out a statement that they can solely run by renewable energy, which is a spurious statement as no renewable energy source could solely supply a data centre due to the intermittent nature of wind energy. But it gives a positive marketing spin on data centres when applying for planning permission,” he said.
Wind energy guidelines
Mr Kennedy said that the Wind Energy Guidelines published in 2006 were outdated even then. Now we are in 2020, and while they were put up for revision in 2013, they still haven’t been revised.
“We’d be very concerned that the current guidelines are not up to scratch, and not up to date when it comes to the speed and the height of the turbines companies are building now.
“For one, a turbine the size of 185m would generate a tip speed of 11.8m per second, equating to 245 miles per hour, in a reasonably strong wind.
“Anyone who thinks that this will not generate considerable noise is deluded. The fact that BnM are proposing turbines the height of the turbines is 200m will mean speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour – this is a major cause for concern.”
The first meeting of the Raharney Ballivor Wind Info Group took place at the weekend. They are not opposed to renewable energy, and are adamant that BnM must offer a better solution to the community, one that would generate long-term employment and less impact in a means to generate renewable energy.
“We are all very concerned, this affects a lot of people, a lot of families,” says Mr Kennedy. “The fact that the turbines proposed are enormous, and the noise they will emit in a quiet country area – there is no way these things can go ahead.”
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