Labour Party Laois senator John Whelan has urged farmers not be cautious about cash offers to allow windfarms be erected on their land.
Hitting out at wind farm supporters over what he calls “outrageous, unsustainable” promises, Sen Whelan called on landowners to be careful.
“I would also respectfully urge farmers to be cautious of those brandishing cheque-books in their faces.
“There is currently an unseemly and indecent haste to get farmers to sign options for wind turbines on their lands. Some of this is being conducted in a surreptitious fashion with confidentiality clauses effectively amounting to a gagging order.
“In my view this is not only misleading and totally unfair to neighbouring families but lends itself to obstructing the transparency of the process and planning involved.
While Minister Pat Rabbitte is backing the sale of wind power generated in Laois to Britain, Senator Whelan aaid much of what is being “bandied about” by those pushing wind farms and “hundreds of giant turbines for Laois-Offaly, Kildare, Westmeath are ridiculously far-fetched and a load of hot-air”
Sen Whelan said the public is more sceptical of exaggerated promises of a windfall for farmers and tens of thousands of jobs across the midlands.
“I too am alarmed. This approach will only serve to damage the renewable sector in the long run, fuel public opposition and sow distrust across rural communities. It is most unhelpful for all concerned and that is why I am raising these concerns,” he said.
Sen Whelan said the proposals for the development of wind farms across the midlands have “ballooned out of all proportion going from small clusters of turbines in remote areas and projections of 5,000 jobs and related investment to off the charts predictions of 2,500 turbines and over 70,000 jobs with more noughts still to follow it seems”.
He said neither the midlands or the entire country could not cope with wind farm development on the scale now being suggested. “It is neither economically or environmentally sustainable. It would form a blight on the landscape for evermore and lead to the next big bubble idea to go wrong.
“It is time now to step back and properly assess the merits of what is being proposed in a careful, considered and constructive way,
“Otherwise we will in time end up with ghost wind farms rusting across large expanses of our pristine countrywide doing untold and irreparable damage to our environment and the valuable visual amenity so prized by our tourist industry and so valued worldwide,” he said.
He backed Bord na Mona’s wind energy development at Mount Lucas, Co Offaly. He said there is no doubt scope for similar schemes on cutaway bogs and other suitable locations.
He said these would create some jobs, aid economic revival, and reduce our carbon footprint and our reliance on coal and oil.
“But let’s not get carried away as there is a limit to what our small country with a dispersed rural population can support and sustain,” said the senator.
He said he has recently met with CREWE – Communities for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy and has also brought the issue directly to Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Jan O’Sullivan.
He said he would be supporting a Bill which seeks to establish a statutorily binding and reasonable set-back from dwellings for the 185 metre larger than the Spire turbines, so as “to protect families from the worst effects of shadow flicker and noise from these giant and permanent installations.”
He was not convinced how any or all of this wind energy can be transferred or transmitted to the national grid or indeed to the UK.