New turbine guidelines 'incompetent' say Laois group

Laois awareness group 'very disappointed' with proposed guidelines

New turbine guidelines 'incompetent' say Laois group
By Lynda Kiernan lynda.kiernan@leinsterexpress.ie @laoisnews

Laois anti-windfarm campaigners have slammed the proposed updated guidelines on turbines in Ireland as "incompetent" and "divisive".

The proposed guidelines, awaited for the past three years, make it mandatory that turbines must be setback from properties at least 500metres, or four time their height.

They set more robustrules on noise levels, and an elimination of 'shadow flicker'. Grid connections must be underground if possible.

Developers must also report on how they consulted with local communities, who must get a dividend through the life of a windfarm.

Henry Fingleton is Chairperson of the Laois based Wind Aware Ireland.

"We are very disappointed. It is a non-event really. The 500m is still far too close. Homeowners in Cork have just got millions in compensation because they can't live in their homes over noise, and they are 1km away from a windfarm," he said.

He sees problems with local authorities overseeing noise regulations.

"At one hand they will get a million a year in rates from a windfarm. If it is in breach, realistically, are they going to be closed down? It is incompetent, there is no certainty for developers either," he said.

Wind industry engagement with communities will remain "a box ticking exercise" he believes.

"They will hold their open days with their PR staff, but where do we have a say, control over our own areas? They can choose not to take our opinions on board," Mr Fingleton said.

He believes windfarms giving money to the likes of local clubs will cause further division.

"The people living close to the turbines will be the most impacted," he said.

"Overall its a charter for industrial developers to build in more populated areas, it's hugely influenced by the wind industry, we believe they have written the policy," the WAI chairperson claimed.

He is part of the community around Cullenagh mountain in Laois embroiled in years of costly legal battles to prevent a windfarm being built there by Coillte. Their case is currently awaiting a hearing in the European Court of Justice.

The group has already spent over €50,000 in legal cases to prevent the turbines going up.

"We hope to keep pushing this on until regulations are in place to protect communities,” he said.

He said the group are “frustrated” at this stage.

“We feel really powerless, we are five years fighting this, and the general population don't really care, they see wind as beneficial, they don't realise the low CO2 savings, that these windfarms are only a way of making money for developers. On Cullenagh, our only hope is the European Court, but the wind industry is driven by Europe,” Mr Fingleton said.

A major problem with the new guidelines he believes, is the lack of a mention of a full Cost Benefit Analysis, to show the real cost of supporting the wind industry.

“Or a Strategic Environmental Assessment on the project. If these were carried out, the big deficiencies of wind energy would have to be looked at, and alternatives found,” he said.

Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley said the guidelines do not go far enough.

“The setback distance is totally inadequate. For giant turbines to be set back a distance of only four times their height is useless,” he said.

“They do not include a requirement that turbines can only be in areas zoned for that purpose by Councillors,” Dep Stanley added.