A presentation on a proposed wind farm off the coast Bray was given last week to members of Bray Municipal District.
Paul Kelly of the company RWE made the presentation to councillors and officials via Zoom.
Dublin Array offshore wind farm is a joint venture between RWE Renewables Ireland and Saorgus Energy.
The planned wind farm would include 61 turbines up to 250 metres tall, located on the Kish and Bray banks, 10km off the coast. The site is 2,440 hectares in size and extends from Booterstown to Greystones. The area is located on naturally occurring sandbanks which the east coast commercial shipping routes avoid due to the shallowness of the water.
Work on the project is expected to start in 2024, with a potential two-year construction period.
This all depends on various permissions being granted in the interim.
Cllr Melanie Corrigan said that she is concerned about the 10km distance the turbines will be from the shore. ‘It’s not very far out,’ she said. ‘We do rely a lot on tourism. I do support wind farms, and can see the benefits of them.’
Mr Kelly said that the site is dictated by water depth.
He said that the distance is eight times more than that set down in guidelines for on-land turbines in terms of proximity to residential properties.
Tourism in Brighton, Mr Kelly told members in his presentation, has been unaffected by a wind farm there.
Cllr Joe Behan said that he has very deep concerns regarding the visual impact of the project.
‘You’re making comparison with on-shore projects as if in some way you’re being very generous with 10km.’
He said that he was horrified by a visual representation of the likely view from Bray.
‘This has the potential to absolutely ruin the visual impact for people enjoying the promenade,’ said Cllr Behan, who said that the area is the ‘jewel in the crown’ for Bray.
‘The thought of the view being forever impacted by huge metal turbines would be grossly unacceptable to the vast majority of people enjoying the amenity,’ said Cllr Behan.
Mr Kelly had said that the company would be giving several million to the community each year, in grants and other forms.
‘Given that you’re talking of funds of five or six million to the community each year, the sceptic in me thinks that there is a massive profit to be made by whatever company owns the wind farm and its shareholders,’ said Cllr Behan.
‘I have no problem with people making a profit, but this government is about to sell off a national energy asset to a foreign multinational. What we get out of it is not clear. Renewable energy obviously, but huge money is going to be made. It’s almost as if we’re selling oil or gas resources for a pittance, which has been done before. We could well be about to do the same. The Irish government should think very carefully before supporting this and giving away what, no doubt, is a valuable asset.’
Mr Kelly said that the company had been very conscious of engaging with the public and getting images out as soon as possible.
A recent public display, done in an online format, was not a legal obligation nor part of the planning process. ‘We haven’t applied for final development consent yet,’ he said.
It will go on to An Bord Plenala for a formal process.
‘We wanted to get images out there for people to see what we were talking about. We have had a lot of engagement from a lot of people. There are people who share your concerns.
‘Over 92 per cent of those who engaged responded positively.
‘We are never going to convince everybody,’ said Mr Kelly. ‘The benefit it will bring has to be balanced against perspectives on the visual impact.’
On the commercial element, he said that one of the mechanisms by which renewable energy is purchased in Ireland is through the renewable energy support scheme.
‘The way the government is developing that is they want to do it by auction,’ said Mr Kelly. He said that will mean competitive tension to deliver value to the consumer ultimately.
Cathaoirleach Cllr Anne Ferris pointed out that this was a briefing for the members, rather than part of a formal process. She said that there will be ample opportunity to make submissions during that process.
Cllr Dermot O’Brien said that it is very hard to deny the impact of renewable energy in the future. He said that while this appears to be very positive and a brilliant project, he had concerns about RWE’s involvement in coal mining and other projects.
‘Is RWE committed to becoming carbon neutral as a company across the globe?’ Cllr O’Brien asked. ‘I don’t think it’s fair to take the good in the Irish context and not look at the global situation.’
Mr Kelly said that the company is no different to any other utility company. ‘We are now diversifying and plan to be completely carbon neutral by 2040,’ he said.
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