Councillors are continuing to hold firm on their decision to limit the number of wind turbines Kerry can accommodate under the new County Development Plan 2022-2028.
At a special meeting held on Monday at Kerry County Council (KCC), the views and recommendations on the Draft Ministerial Direction regarding the future of wind-energy development were discussed.
A total of 785 submissions, some of which were from TDs and elected officials, were lodged with KCC since the Minister requested councillors row back on their decision to curtail the lands deemed ‘suitable’ for wind energy as voted on in July, when all 33 councillors were in agreement.
However, of the 785 submissions received by KCC since August, 755 deal specifically with the issue of renewable energy, mostly from individuals within communities in the north and east of the county who are opposed to further wind turbines.
One of the submissions outlined that, of the 362 turbines in Kerry, there are 225 in the Stacks Mountains region, which is home to Special Protection Areas (SPA). KCC CEO Moira Murrell is required to submit the findings from the discussions to the Minister by October 5.
The concern is that if Councillors resist the Ministerial recommendations, it would leave the county exposed to national policy on where wind development can take place as opposed to finalising this internally within the County Development Plan.
But councillors feel the well has run dry on this issue and that, with policy guidelines still unchanged regarding where and how wind turbines are erected since 2006, it would, they feel, be ill-advised to make any more lands available.
Councillors also argued that an energy contribution to the national grid of 18 to 20 per cent generated solely from wind in Kerry far exceeds that of any other county.
Cllr Jackie Healy-Rae (Ind) blasted any attempt to change the minds of elected representatives on the matter. He questioned the efficiency of wind energy, saying it was ‘the cheap option’ to build turbines inland, as opposed to offshore wind turbines.
“Wind energy capacity’s output is very rarely met,” he said.
“It is so unreliable. Therefore, who is it actually benefiting? It’s not anyone on the ground…We are already a leader on wind energy.
“Why does this have to be onshore? It’s because it’s too expensive to go offshore. Onshore is a cheaper form. If we are to continue with onshore wind, other counties need to step up and do more,” said Cllr Healy-Rae.
Cllr Aoife Thornton (FG) said there is still a large sector of the public who support their stance.
“I would be in favour of reiterating the same points we’ve made already in relation to wind energy,” she said.
“We have 364 wind turbines on the ground. For the land mass that we have, it’s so obvious that we are leading in the country, and indeed Europe.
“The fact they [Office of Planning Regulator] won’t take this into consideration isn’t fair. What’s there must be taken into consideration, not push us into further development,” Cllr Thornton said.
Cllr Fionnán Fitzgerald (FF) said one of the main problems was being forced to abide by 2006 wind-energy guidelines, which, he said, are no longer fit for purpose.
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