Enough turf would be removed in the construction of the proposed Shronowen wind farm in north Kerry to keep every house in the region “in turf for 50 years”, a meeting of Kerry County Council heard.
Shronowen Wind Farm Ltd, a subsidiary of EMP Energy, Dublin, has applied directly to An Bord Pleanála for permission for 12 turbines across 364ha, involving four townlands.
On the company’s dedicated website for the development, it says the project will involve a €54.9m investment in Irish renewable energy, and will power 35,000 homes, providing world-class, low-carbon electricity generation infrastructure to meet Ireland’s growing demand.
The project area is just 3.3kms south of Ballylongford and 4.5 kms from Listowel, close to the Shannon Estuary and the Kerry-Limerick border.
The permission is being sought for 10 years, with an operational life of 30 once commissioned.
The 12 “giant” 150m-high turbines would be in an area already surrounded by wind farms and other renewable energy projects such as solar farms, the meeting outlining the objections was told.
Council management in Kerry, backed by councillors, have told An Bord Pleanála they are firmly opposed.
“The presence of wind turbines in the landscape is not a justification for further wind turbines,” the submission, signed off on by the council’s director of services for economic and community development Michael Scannell, reads.
The low-lying area is comprised of bogland, cutaway bogland, forestry, and farmland and ”dotted” with farmhouses and one-off dwellings.
Six peat deposition areas with a total volume of about 225,456m3 would be needed.
Forestry would be felled and replanted; almost 7kms of new internal roads would have to be built; and the existing public roads would be unable to withstand the heavy machinery, the council fears.
Important archaeological finds
There are fears too that important archaeological finds would be missed – a 1,400-year-old brooch was found in a turf fire in the area in 2010.
There are strong environmental grounds for not allowing the project, the council believes.
Rare wetlands would be at risk, and the council has told the planning board not to underestimate the importance of the bogland. “Shronowen Bog is considered to be a remnant raised bog as opposed to a lowland blanket bog,” it said.
The application went directly to An Bord Pleanála as it is deemed important strategic infrastructure.
Close to 7,000 houses were within 10km in Kerry alone, and this was not taking residential development in Co Limerick into account. Some 1,458 dwellings would be within 5km of turbines and several houses would be just 500m away, leading to shadow flicker and other disturbance.
Existing windmills already numbered 36 in the neighbourhood and north Kerry knew only too well “the destruction and negative impact “ of wind energy, councillors said.
Ballylongford on the Shannon Estuary was already “surrounded” , Cllr Michael Foley, FG said.
EMP Energy says on its website that the location is within Kerry County Council’s preferred zone for wind energy development.
The company says the farm will contribute €9.1m in county council rates, as well as promising a community fund of about €302,000 a year for the 15-year duration of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).
Eighty five jobs would be created in the construction phase, with 20 people to be employed there on an ongoing basis.
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