Wind farm claims amount to outrageous hot-air
Posted on February 05, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Let’s not have another building bubble called Con-Air
Claims by some proponents of wind farms are so outrageous they are unsound, unsustainable, unsafe and unhelpful. 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 which will ultimately damage the genuine cause of wind energy and renewable.
The public are growing more and more sceptical of grossly 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.
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.
The midland counties or indeed the entire country could not cope with wind farm development on the scale now being suggested by some of its advocates. 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. In time the so-called angry men will have a field day touring their latest books chronicling another boom-to-bust episode entitled Con-Air, if we don’t put a stop before it’s too late to all this pie-in-the-sky.
I commend the responsible approach of companies like Bord na Mona and their wind energy development underway at Mount Lucas, Co Offaly. There is no doubt scope for similar schemes on the vast expanse of cutaway bogs and other suitable locations. These will create some jobs, aid our 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.
Along with Deputy Willie Penrose and Senator John Kelly I have recently met with representatives of CREWE – Communities for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy – to hear their legitimate concerns first hand. We have also brought the issue directly to Ministers Pat Rabbitte and Jan O’Sullivan. I am also supporting Senator Kelly’s Bill which seeks to establish a statutorily binding and reasonable set-back from dwellings for the massive 185 metre larger than the Spire turbines, so as to project families from the worst effects of shadow flicker and noise from these giant and permanent installations. We will continue to press for legislation in this area as at present the situation is too ad hoc and inconsistent across the country.
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.
Finally, I remain to be convinced how any or all of this wind energy can be transferred or transmitted to the national grid or indeed to the UK as is now being mooted. Sponsors of wind farms insist they are going to underground and yet Eirgrid are adamant that this is not technically or economically feasible. There are a legion of inconsistencies and unanswered questions, not least why the UK itself is shying away from and shunning wind farms despite its vast countryside, nuclear power resources and huge energy requirements.
Furthermore, there is emerging evidence that the massive scale of the wind farms now being proposed for Laois and the midlands is directly connected to Eirgrid’s corporate plan, though this has to date been constantly denied. Eirgrid continue to maintain that their proposed sub-station at Coolnabaca in Ratheniska- Timahoe is ostensibly to facilitate the Laois-Ballyragget reinforcement project. Yet it comes with the redundant capacity to incorporate 20 hi-voltage power lines which would cover our countryside in a web of power lines and pylons. Connectivity for renewable energy to the national grid in Laois is referenced in Eirgrid documents as far back as 2009, and yet the company have never been upfront about this.
Hopefully, the full truth and impact of what is being proposed by these wind farms and Eirgrid will emerge in the crucial oral hearings in the planning process in due course.