Residents object to planned windfarm 'monstrosity' in Laois at public meeting

Huge turbines planned by a multi-national company

Lynda Kiernan

Reporter:

Lynda Kiernan

Meeting held on planned windfarm 'monstrosity' in Laois

Laois people discussing a plan for a windfarm near Mountmellick in Laois on October 21 2019.

Some 60 people gathered in a Laois village this week to discuss the plan for a wind farm in their midst.

Turbines which it is claimed may be taller than any existing in Ireland are planned on farmlands north of Mountmellick.

A Norwegian backed project would see the Dernacart Wind Farm have eight turbines of 185 metres height, 35 metres taller than those in Mount Lucas windfarm in Co Offaly.

It is planned by Statkraft, a Norwegian company which bought the Element Power Irish renewable business last year and plans to spend €1.5 billion on wind energy in Ireland.

At Clonaghadoo village hall, some 1.5 km from the proposed farm, people gathered to talk about the plan, bringing brochures that had been posted in their letterboxes in recent weeks, their first indication of it.

All were in opposition at the meeting, not at green energy but the scale and proximity of the windfarm to their homes. They are concerned about the height, health, devaluation of property and their water sources. 

Many are angry too at the way the company has notified them of its plans.

Emma Hinch lives in Upper Forest. Her house would be under a kilometre away from four of the turbines.

"I am absolutely annoyed and frustrated at the lack of consideration for residents, and the lack of regulations. They are going around as if it's just going to happen because of green energy. Nobody here is against renewable energy, but what we are against is such industrial monstrosity, so close to houses and wildlife, with a divil may care attitude. It's very cloak and dagger. They put it in my door mid week, we want a proper engagement," she said.

Keith and Siobhán Martley are also concerned.

"They are not addressing the fact that there are kids in the area with special needs," Keith said.

Jason Maher said he is worried about the effect on health and the value of his home.

"I heard the same as you, 10 days ago. I am one of the nearest houses in Upper Forest. it's the monstrosity of the size, we are only finally getting wildlife back in the bog, it's too scary," he said.

The eight turbines are planned in Forest Upper and Forest Lower, beside the N80 Mountmellick to Tullamore road.

Below is a map provided by the company showing the turbines as green dots and houses as black squares.

Cllr Paddy Bracken who attended with Cllr Seamus McDonald confirmed that Laois County Council held a pre-planning meeting six months ago with the company.

He said Laois councillors voted to remove all possible windfarm areas from the county development plan in 2017, but the council was forced to reinstate the map by the Minister for Energy.

"There is no planning application in yet, and you can make submissions against it, as a group or individuals," he said.

Henry Fingleton is part of the People Over Wind action group who have spent six years fighting a planned windfarm in Cullenagh mountain in south Laois. His community has spent €80,000 so far in legal fees.

"If you fight it, it's going to take a fight. You can win, but generally on environmental grounds, humans don't matter.  Meet them now, and say '99% of us are opposed to this. Walk away now, we will fight this'," he suggested.

The turbines would be at least 740metres away from houses the company says in the brochure.

It promises no shadow flicker. The turbines would give wind generated electricity to 30,000 homes, with underground cables, a substation, turbine foundations, drainage works and access roads all planned.

In the brochure, StatKraft says it reduced the number of turbines from its initial design of 16 at 169m tall to eight at 185m, to make them further away from homes. It has been carrying out an environmental assessment for some time, to include with a planning application. 

The area is marked as 'open for consideration' on the Laois wind map in Laois County Council's development plan (yellow strip in top centre of map below).