A Laois based wind awareness group claims that the government has blocked publication of new windfarm planning guidelines, a claim refuted by two government departments.
Wind Aware Ireland believes the delay is to allow construction of windfarms already in planning, including Cullenagh Windfarm near Ballyroan.
The community group accuses Taoiseach Enda Kenny of “cyncially blocking” the guidelines to promote “interests of big, subsidy-seeking business, over the rights of families and communities”.
Spokesperson Paula Byrne said the group understands the guidelines are “postponed indefinitely”.
“This decision has been made at the highest level in Government. The guidelines, although passed by the Attorney General, have been blocked by both the Taoiseach’s office and Minister Alex White’s Energy department, who jointly overruled Minister Alan Kelly. The decision follows intense lobbying by the wind industry,” Ms Byrne claims.
The group met with Minister Kelly from the Department of the Environment in October 2014, and say he then undertook to push ahead and have guidelines published if possible, before Christmas.
“Since then the timeline has been pushed back again and again,” Ms Byrne said.
The 2006 guidelines are to guide planning authorities in deciding on windfarms, with advice on minimum distance from homes and noise levels, among other issues.
With the increased height and number of windfarms seeking planning, a revision was begun by the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government in December 2013.
This was due for release last Autumn, almost a year ago. It will be completed “as soon as possible” say the Dept of the Environment.
“I’m not sure where this has come from. The Department is still considering the submissions received in relation to the focused review and it is intended that the revisions to the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines will be finalised as soon as possible,” a spokesperson said.
Minister White’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources denied awareness of any postponement while underlining the importance of wind energy.
“The Department is being consulted on proposed new planning guidelines for wind energy and, therefore, has no reason to believe that the new guidelines have been ‘postponed indefinitely’,” a spokesperson said.
They say they are being consulted because “wind energy is by far the biggest element of Ireland’s renewable energy generation and is, therefore, essential to meet legally-binding international commitments on reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the development of renewable alternatives to carbon-based fuels”.
They say “engagement is ongoing”.
“Technical studies have been obtained on aspects, particularly noise, including separation distance, and detailed assessments of various options have been undertaken by the two departments,” the spokesperson said.
The dept declined to explain the delay, or when the guidelines may be published.