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Council to slash amount of land in Kerry available for new wind farms

Kerry County Council have revealed plans to slash the amount of land in the county that is available to erect wind turbines.

The plan – which will see the amount of land designated as suitable for wind farms cut by 90 per cent – was outlined at a briefing for councillors on the draft County Development Plan for 2022 to 2028 on Thursday.

At the briefing Kerry County Council Senior Planning Officer Damien Ginty said that in preparing the draft plan the Council has undertaken a detailed study of all areas where wind turbines are and could potentially be located.

This included an examination of existing turbines’ impact on their locality; average wind speeds across the county (an average wind speed of 6.5 metres per second is required for a turbine to function) and a study of the visual impact of the turbines that are currently in situ.

Based on this study – and a new rule preventing the location of a turbine within 500 metres of a home’s property boundary – council management are proposing to limit the construction of new turbines to sites in a thin sliver of land along the border of north Kerry and west Limerick.

In the current County Development Plan 546 square kilometres of land – the majority of it in north Kerry – is designated as suitable for wind turbines.

If the new plan is approved by councillors this will be slashed to just 59 square kilometres.

Council Management are also proposing to effectively recant its controversial 2012 Landscape Character Assessment of north Kerry which allowed for the erection of wind turbines across much of the region as it was deemed to have little or no scenic value.

The document – prepared by the Council as part of the eighth variation of the Renewable Energy Strategy for Kerry – provoked outrage across north Kerry and led to serious fears for the future of the local tourism industry.

Councillors heard that there are currently 362 wind turbines, in 25 wind farms, located in the county – most in north Kerry – with planning applications for a further 38 pending.

The briefing was told that around 150 of the turbines are easily visible across large swathes of the county.

While Kerry only accounts for three per cent of the country’s population it currently produces 18 per cent of Ireland’s total wind energy, Mr Ginty told Councillors.

Cllr Aoife Thornton (FG) welcomed the news and said she would like to see an even bigger reduction, than the proposed 90 per cent cut in lands available for turbines.

“The [wind power output] figures for Kerry speak for themselves. We’re giving enough,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by Cllr Michael Foley (FG) who said north Kerry has been “saturated” with turbines and that “enough is enough”.

Cllr Foley also slammed the 2012 Landscape Character Assessment
“That was disastrous for my part of the county and it can’t be allowed happen again,” he said.

Cllr Mike Kennelly (FG) said wind turbines had a devastating impact on life in north Kerry.
“Communities have been destroyed and fallen asunder and putting them back together will be a problem,” he said.

“They were never engaged with from the very beginning,” he added.