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People Over Wind oppose Portlaoise Low Carbon Plan

An anti–wind turbine group with active Laois members has responded to Portlaoise town’s new Carbon Footprint Study because of an emphasis of the proposals on windpower and the commissioning of a company that produce wind turbines to complete the report.

The report, which was published this month by Laois County Council, identifies the need to cut Portlaoise’s annual greenhouse gas footprint of nearly 100,000 tonnes a year.

The study sets out different options on how this can be achieved by identifying renewable energy as a means of reducing emissions.

The plan proposes investment in wind or solar power as the main ways to cut pollution which is contributing to climate change. It also sets out other ways to reduce emissions.

However, People Over Wind have highlighted what they believe are shortcomings with what was outlined.

They say the report was carried out by Siemens, a company that manufactures wind turbines.

“Given that fact, it will come as no great surprise that the study proposes the roll out of large-scale industrial wind developments, among other scenarios, to lower Portlaoise’s carbon emissions. One such scenario would require about two massive turbines per km2 throughout the county,” they say.

The group also say media reporting of the study implies that the electricity generated from wind would be supplied directly to Portlaoise, rather than through the national grid. They disagree.

“In fact, on closer reading, a ‘power purchase agreement’ is proposed. This entails an agreement whereby a ‘renewable’ electricity provider agrees to provide electricity, either physically (renewable and non-renewable), or on a balance sheet only, to replace the existing electricity supply (renewable and non-renewable).

“Most likely, unless Portlaoise proposes to build a second electricity grid (pylons and overhead lines included), this ‘new supply’ will exist on paper only.

They disagree with what they say is an assumption by the authors that wind replaces ‘current installed energy mix in equal proportion’.

“Turbines do not produce electricity when the wind is not blowing but we still need electricity on those days. To date, no grid-scale storage has been developed.

“For example, the ESB, reporting to an Oireachtas committee, noted that it would take 60 Turloughs Hills or 14 million Tesla Powerwalls to store electricity for one day’s supply.

“Thus, conventional sources of electricity are required when the wind does not blow. These sources have to ramp up and down to match the vagaries of wind, thus rendering them less efficient. This inefficiency from ramping up and down has been described as akin to revving and braking a car, which produces more emissions compared with when driving at a constant speed on a motorway,” said the statement.

The group also claim that the calculated saving in emissions of 34% from Portlaoise’s baseline are out of line with the SEAI’s annual reports on emissions saved from wind.

“The authors do not describe their calculations in sufficient detail and the figures and tables in the report are lacking in descriptive information to allow full independent analysis,” said People Over Wind.

The campaign group also point to a national figure on wind savings.

“Nationally, wind saves about 4% of our overall CO2 emissions every year, a paltry sum considering wind turbines’ negative impacts and the potential for other, simpler solutions.

“The turbines proposed in this report would have enormous social, environmental and economic impacts and little benefit, apart from lining the pockets of the authors.

“For example, families impacted by noise and infrasound may have to abandon their homes as they have done in other parts of the country.

“The turbines may negatively impact habitats and the enormous costs would be better spent on other measures to reduce emissions,” said the statement.

The campaign group say renewable energy scenarios that can have “no meaningful impact undermine real efforts to reduce emissions and make people cynical.”

People Over Wind point out that there are examples in Laois already where turbines have caused problems.

“This is especially the case in Laois where several communities have done battle with large wind and grid developers for many years, at great personal and financial cost,” said the statement.

People Over Wind want the plan put to one side.

“Our local leaders, including our county councillors, should reject this report, and to go back to the drawing board,” they say.