An ecologist has been working in South Roscommon for the last two years to gather environmental data in relation to plans for a €100 million wind farm, a spokesperson for the developers has confirmed.
The news comes as An Bord Pleanála is due to decide whether or not the massive 21-turbine wind farm proposed for an area between Dysart, Brideswell and Taughmaconnell can be treated as Strategic Infrastructure Development during the planning process by October 12 next.
If judged of strategic economic or social importance to the State or a region, the application for the Seven Hills Wind Farm would then go through the SID fast-track process for projects directly to An Bord Pleanála.
When asked why the project has been resurrected now, given the local community fought the previous plans all the way to High Court over six years ago and won, the spokesperson stressed that the latest proposals are a “new project” with “fewer turbines and a new site layout.”
The company acknowledged the court win which ruled that further environmental studies were required in relation to groundwater systems and local flooding.
“The development team has taken account of these concerns and an ecologist has been working on-site for the past two years to gather environmental data. Monitoring and investigation of groundwater systems, including flooding risk, are ongoing. This data is guiding the design of the new proposal, which will be subject to a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as prescribed by EU law.”
Irish energy provider Energia, and Galetech Energy Developments (GED) are behind the latest incarnation and have conducted some local consultation since it was restarted in March, taking account of Covid-19 restrictions.
Queried on major differences from the previous plans, the company spokesperson said: “The proposed development will have fewer turbines and benefit from new technologies which will reduce aspects such as noise, thus benefiting the local community. The development team has also taken account of concerns expressed with regard to the previous development and is undertaking extensive environmental analysis to inform any application and provide local stakeholders with as much information as possible.”
Despite the impact of the Covid-19, the development team underlined that they have been actively engaging with the local community to gather views on the current draft development layout.
“We have undertaken consultation with the community that includes a website detailing the plans and proposed layout. Those residents living within 2km of the proposed site have received further information by post and anyone wishing to contact the project team can do so via a freephone number (1800140232).
The development team also undertook face-to-face consultation sessions in July across a number of locations in line with Government safety guidelines.
“Overall, this process of engagement will continue and the development team will consult widely before submitting a planning application towards the end of the year/beginning of 2021.”
Concerns have been raised by locals, and several public representatives about the possible impact to Killeglan Springs, the main water source for much of South Roscommon.
Asked to address these worries, the developers said these “considerations have formed an important part of our consultations with Roscommon County Council and the local community.”
“A comprehensive examination approach delivered by a technical team comprising of a civil engineer, hydrology, and ecology expertise, has been put in place with regard to groundwater and associated considerations. Monitoring and investigation of groundwater systems, including flooding risk, are ongoing.”
Seven Hills Wind Farm Project would have a typical output of 5-6 megawatts per turbine of renewable energy – enough to provide approximately 85,000 Irish households with green energy every year.
It is estimated that up to 100 jobs could be created during construction.
According to the backers, the planning approval would cover a 30-year lifespan, and when the wind farm is decommissioned, “the turbines will be taken down and removed with much of the materials reused or recycled.”
Initially, over a decade ago, it was Cavan-based Galetech driving the proposal, now it is the more high profile Energia, who have restarted the wind energy project which attracted huge local opposition when it first came to light back in 2010.
Back in March, the development was revived when the energy provider submitted a request to An Bord Pleanála seeking a formal pre-application consultation meeting under legislation governing Strategic Infrastructure Developments (SID), the fast track planning process for large scale development which essentially bypasses the local authority planning process.
More than six years ago now, the local community won a High Court battle overturning the initial approval for the controversial wind farm scheme, and the Wind Turbine Action Group South Roscommon has already said it will fight the new proposals even more vigorously than last time.
The draft layout plans and further details are available to view online on the www.sevenhillswindfarm.ie website