People living near wind farms are sacrificial lambs to greed
Credit: Fiona O'Connell | March 26 2023 | independent.ie ~~
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Lambs are frolicking as Easter approaches, though there are sacrificial lambs across this land in the form of those desperately unlucky folk who live close to wind farms and have to bear the brunt of the devastating downsides for the sake of their supposed benefits for the rest of us.
They describe “nose bleeds” and other health issues that accompany the shadow flicker and noise of industrial scale turbines as a never-ending nightmare. For there is no escape, what with the value of their house gone with the wind.
It’s insane how normal it is to see posters protesting against wind farms pinned up wherever you go in this country. And even more bizarre is how the bigger the development, the better their chance of success, as they then go straight to An Bord Pleanála (ABP), where objections by locals carry little weight.
But they keep fighting, propelled by the lived experience of affected communities. I bump into one mother-of-two and hear how herself and her husband have managed to scrape together their €360 share towards the latest legal challenge against a development that would be less than 2km from their home.
It is far from the only one in the pipeline for this inland county. I answer the door a few weeks later to a man who has tracked me down after someone gave him a piece I wrote in this newspaper about wind farms.These communities feel so desperate, so unheard and ignored, their voices drowned out by the purported benefits of wind farms that no one can hear them, or no one wants to hear them.
These people are as forgotten as those monstrous turbines that threaten their lives but which the rest of us don’t have to deal with, or so we think, as they turn to anyone who might be able to help.
An industrial development of at least 520 acres is planned for the Coppenagh Gap, Co Kilkenny. Residents set up “Save our Valley” after they were informed last March that a German company with a fossil fuel background is to seek planning permission for 180-metre turbines in their valley that is home to some 150 families and a chequerboard of small farms, marshland, rocky outcrops, and pristine mountain streams.
Though the development could end up bigger: “indicative” maps shared ahead of submitting a planning application show the scale of the site “grew” between March and July last year. That’s certainly the pattern with other developments, where opening the door to one means there will likely be more on the horizon.
“We are trying to protect our way of life and preserve the county’s landscapes for future generations,” spokesperson Anne Lacey says. “Why are our rights being ignored?
”Maybe because the green energy at stake is the obvious one. “Wind is Ireland’s oil,” Micheál Martin declared at Davos last year. Certainly, these communities think the Government is behaving with the same flagrant disregard for the democratic rights of rural citizens as any of those oil-rich Arab countries.“
Our community is reeling, defenceless and angry,” Lacey says. “Political parties happily sacrifice rural Ireland as a soft option for their lack of a long-term offshore energy strategy.”What’s worse is “even when the council rejects applications robustly, energy companies appeal to ABP,” Lacey explains. “Residents are left to defend themselves at huge personal risk and cost, with no access to the legal and technical resources that multinationals bring to bear.”
There can also be a lack of solidarity from the wider community, thanks to the “community funds” that accompany these developments which add a twist to the Nimby pejorative “not in my backyard”.
As one resident who would have a wind farm on his doorstep says about local GAA clubs who backed it after receiving funding two years before the proposal was even made: “They live 7km away in the village – they’ve no business supporting it.”
Yet we are all connected and will eventually suffer the consequences. So best beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing of pay offs, or prepare to become another lamb to the slaughter.
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