A new campaign is calling for Irish offshore wind farms to be situated at least 22km from the coast.
The Blue Horizon campaign, founded by residents of Helvick in Co Waterford, where prospective sites for wind farms come as close as 5km from the shore, argues that a 22km minimum distance is being applied in other EU countries and Ireland should follow suit.
With a government-set climate change target of 70% renewable energy by 2030, several applications have been made by energy companies for surveying licences of the south coast stretching from Dunmore East in Co Waterford to Ballycotton in Co Cork.
But residents say locating turbines within 22km of the shore would have a negative visual impact as well as negative impacts on on tourism, biodiversity and the fishing industry.
Energy company Energia Renewables’ 2019 application to conduct feasibility surveys for turbines from Helvick Head to beyond Dunmore East is generating concern due to the size of the proposed project and its proximity to shore.
Energia’s application for a foreshore licence is to survey for a wind farm of either 125 195m turbines, or 50 260m turbines. The closest point of the survey grid is 5km from Helvick Head, which is 50m high.
SSE Renewables Ltd has applied for a licence to survey a 689sq km area about 25km off the Waterford and Wexford coastline, while DP Energy Ireland has applied to investigate a site extending from Ardmore past Ballycotton towards Cork Harbour, 9.9km from shore at its nearest point.
The Blue Horizon campaign says it has no objections to wind energy, but that any developments need to be sensitively located.
The campaign website cites countries including Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany that all regulate for distances from shore of 22km and above for wind turbines.
“We spent time looking at what is done in other European countries and it quickly became apparent to us that 5km is shocking in comparison to international practice,” Eveleen Drohan, a Helvick resident and spokesperson for Blue Horizon, said. “Other jurisdictions have laws stipulating how close to the coast wind farms can go.”
“We support renewable energy, but the location of it needs to be considered; Just because it’s labelled green, doesn’t make it right.
“We want to let the public know what is happening, and to highlight the flaws with the process in Ireland at the moment.”
Ms Drohan said regulations are needed to prevent developers “irrevocably industrialising” the coastline.
Emmet O’Muirithe, another member of Blue Horizon, said the cumulative impact if numerous wind farm operations were constructed along the coast was not being adequately considered.
“We have to meet those 2030 targets, and wind is a big asset for us, but let’s not jump the gun and let private developers in to rule the roost,” Mr O’Muirithe said. “Let’s have some debate and let’s at least establish a perimeter around the coasts.”
A 20-year National Marine Planning Framework is due to be published before the end of March 2021.
A PR representative of Energia stressed that the company’s current licence application, which was initially to begin ocean bed surveys in April 2020 but which has experienced delays, is only for an exploratory phase and that any proposed development will be subject to a separate planning process.
“Data from feasibility studies will help determine the size of the wind farm, the location of the wind farm, the number of turbines and the distance from shore,” he said in a statement.
“This information will then form part of a further application for planning to develop these respective projects. A future planning application would only take place after full public consultation.”
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