Carrickaduff  Wind Turbine Application

Carrickaduff Wind Turbine Application

An Bord Pleanala decision to refuse SID application for 49 turbines at Carrickaduff Co. Donegal It is an understatement to say that the recent decision by The Bord dated the 23rd March 2016 to refuse permission for this enormous development, which covered an area of 40sq.km. in the Finn Valley Co. Donegal, was greeted by all involved as a major relief and an endorsement of rational thinking. I represented the local Finn Valley Wind Action Group which was a community wide initiative that also helped coordinate individual observations, which ran to over 200 submissions on the application. The Community is very much to be commended for the position that it adopted in opposing this development which was completely out of character with the local area and conflicted across a wide range of environmental interests. From my view point I would question the process around SID projects where this application had been subject to pre application consultation with The Bord through one of its Inspectors. A process for which the public and by extension the stakeholders in the local community where the application is intended to be developed, are shut out. This is an issue that has been challenged by others in recent times. Given the restriction on space here I am somewhat limited as to the extent that I can explore the many significant pointers in the consideration by The Bord in reaching the conclusion to refuse. I have dealt with wind farms and many large scale developments of great complexity over the past 18 years, and I have to say that this application presented us with a unique set...
The Hughes Energy Initiative –

The Hughes Energy Initiative –

Saving Ireland Billions via Deep Building Retrofits. The EU has rightly stated that the energy that buildings consume represents the greatest potential for saving energy. In its Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) it has set two targets for energy reduction in buildings – 40% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. Probably even more important from a climate change point of view is this will reduce Ireland’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 11 Million Tonnes (11MtCO2). These are substantial reductions and while nobody would argue with the intent behind this initiative, the ‘elephant in the room’ of course is how are we going to pay for this? Well over €30 Billion of funding is available from Ireland’s current response to a previous EU ‘challenge’ the so called ‘NREAP’ or National Renewable Energy Action Plan from 2009. The NREAP has spawned a series of very costly and divisive projects including Grid25, Wind farms, Interconnectors, Sub Stations and Fast Response Gas Power Stations. Some of you may know that NREAP seeks to provide 40% of Ireland’s electricity via wind energy but how many know the cost of this both financially and also the unintended consequences of loss of visual amenity and social divisiveness in areas where these pylons and wind turbines will be located? To date most commentators have said that while these projects do have negative effects they ask ‘what is the alternative?’ Well the alternative is we can divert investment from the remainder of the NREAP projects into the new EED 2030 and 2050 targets and achieve all three project objectives including NREAP in one step. Put very simply and in very round numbers the...
Wind Energy – What’s happening?

Wind Energy – What’s happening?

“Wind Turbines – Hasn’t all that gone away now?” No! And here’s why All of us at Wind Aware Ireland are involved in local wind awareness groups and this is one of the most common reactions we get. That, and ‘they’ll be miles away so I’m not bothered’ and ‘you’re only wasting your time, its going to happen anyway’, but these last two are a whole different article. Why is the perception out there among so many people that this issue has gone away? It’s all down to Pat Rabbitte’s disingenuous press release entitled ‘Midlands Energy Export Project will not go ahead’, and poor reporting in a lot of the media. This release was made on 13 April with two express intentions: to torpedo the Anti-Turbine/Pylon march in Dublin on 15 April, which it manifestly failed to do; and to take the heat out of this issue for Labour/Fine Gael candidates in the election. That didn’t work either. That press release was disingenuous because, although he does say “delivery by 2020 of a Midlands Wind Export Project is not now a realistic proposition” due to failure to conclude an Inter-Governmental Agreement, he goes on to say “greater trade in energy between Britain and Ireland is inevitable in the post 2020 scenario.” So, perhaps the timing may change but it sounds like it’s definitely going ahead to me. It’s disappointing that most journalists seemed unable to read past the headline when reporting this and have ended up misleading people which is probably what Mr Rabbitte intended all along. In response, Element Power, on it’s Greenwire website “expressed it’s surprise” and went...
Building a monster –

Building a monster –

Good intentions and vested interests make bad bedfellows. There is no doubt that plans for renewables came from a well meaning place. We are facing global warming, according to many scientists, and much of it caused by our actions.  Even if we weren’t there are many good reasons to reduce our emissions and become less dependent on oil and gas, after all it will eventually run out! In addition, the rise of despots such as Putin in Russia and al-Assad in Syria, make our leaders distinctly nervous about reliable supplies. In Ireland, the push for renewables is within the remit of the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) who are quite clear that there are three goals in energy policy; energy security, cost competitiveness and protection of the environment through the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Their report ‘Renewable Energy in Ireland 2012’ published February 2014 analysed the contribution of renewables to Ireland’s energy requirements from 1990 to 2012. What they fail to mention however, is that the current chairman Brendan Halligan also sits on the board of, and owns shares in Mainstream Renewables, one of the largest wind farms developers in the state! Our energy consumption and emissions come from of three sources – heat, transport and electricity, electricity accounting for about 20% of overall energy use. It is important to keep in mind that when we discuss wind energy it is usually within the context of electricity use only and not the 80% of energy used by heat and transport. Another massive contributor to GHG emissions is agriculture at 29% of all emissions, with methane from flatulent...
Wind Turbine Land Options

Wind Turbine Land Options

Do farmers realise what they have signed up for? With many hundreds, if not thousands, of land option agreements signed in the Midlands are farmers fully aware of the extent of the restrictions they have placed on their property? And is the payoff worth it? Solicitor Nora Fagan’s article on the matter in April’s Law Gazette was very illuminating. If I were a signed-up farmer and wasn’t worried before, I would be now. The main points raised by her are presented here. The words and interpretation are mine. Option duration and restrictions Option agreements are usually for a minimum of five years and can often be extended to ten years. What many farmers failed to realise when they received the hard-sell from the developers was that often their entire folio is subject to the option, not just the original field that the developer might have identified as their preferred site for the turbine. This means that in theory the developer could construct the turbine anywhere they want on the farm, subject to planning constraints. Many options have clauses preventing a disposition or a transmission of land without the prior consent of the developer. This in effect means that the farmer cannot lease, mortgage or gift land without the permission of the developer. Nora Fagan cites one case of a farmer prevented by the developer from transferring a site to his son. Option/Lease assignment It’s common practice for developers to sell on parcels of options before even a single turbine has been built. The farmer would have no say in this transaction and it effectively means that he could end...
Mount Lucas July 2014

Mount Lucas July 2014

As the construction of turbines nears completion, you really get a sense of being overpowered by these giants, in what has become something akin to an alien landscape. Currently 22 turbines have been fully erected, with most of the remaining turbine towers in varying stages of construction. On the evening of 14 June 2014, eleven of the turbines were operating. There was a light breeze at ground level, but with obviously enough wind at altitude to turn the rotar blades. Again the noise was clearly audible – I liken it to the drone of a swarm of beetles which I recall from New Zealand. These beetles grow in the ground, then when they reach the adult stage they take flight in great swarms. The sound is at the same time distant and right inside your head, and there is no getting away from it – it is constant and unrelenting. We had to put up with it for only a few hours at a time, but can you imagine that feeling 24 hours a day? Up until recently the biggest visual impact had been along the western and southern borders of the site. With more turbines having been built the extent of the visual impact has widened greatly, with the houses on the northern and eastern borders of the site now dwarfed by the turbines. In the past few days I have visited some of the houses closest to the site. It really is an oppressive sight with several turbines towering in the background. Having spoken to a few people living in the shadow of the turbines you really...
Rethink!

Rethink!

Why Grid25 is madness and Biomass is a serious alternative to wind. We at Wind Aware Ireland spent some time thinking about our name and identity. We liked ‘People before Profit’ but someone took it! We wanted to reflect our core beliefs and the fact that we are looking at the bigger picture issues of overall energy policy in Ireland and abroad. We are calling on government to rethink and evaluate its current flawed energy free for all (I’ll desist calling it a ‘policy’). So another really good name came up – ‘Rethink’….. again, it was taken! Rethink Pylons are a similar organisation to our own who were galvanised by the proposed upgrade to the national grid via the Grid25 project. Like us, they too have come to realise that the whole energy strategy needs revision and independent analysis. As no such analysis was forthcoming from our glorious leaders, Rethink commissioned their own. BW Energy is a specialised energy consultancy providing ‘strategic, financial, regulatory and policy advice in decarbonising energy markets.’ and comprises Dr. Anthony White and Malcolm Brown and their team. Dr. White is a physicist by trade and has over 35 years’ experience in the energy sector, working as an energy analyst for investment banks and as head of strategy for the British National Grid Group. He is actively involved in UK energy and power market policy participating in numerous UK Government advisory bodies. Malcolm Brown has over twenty seven years’ experience of the energy sector and low carbon economy from capital markets analytical and strategy consulting roles at a senior level. His energy sector analytical roles...
Slovenian Wind Energy – Part 3

Slovenian Wind Energy – Part 3

Public opinion canvassed then promptly ignored, people who question wind energy branded as cranks. It could just as easily be Ireland but it’s not, its Slovenia. Same issues, different country. At the beginning people´s opinions were really divided; some of them were for turbines (mostly landowners), others against. At the beginning almost everybody was for it because it was claimed to be green energy and everybody who was against it was immediately labelled as a nuclear lobbyist or an old-fashioned person. But recently the situation has changed; more and more people are becoming aware that this »GREEN ENERY« would destroy everything. However, some people are still afraid and hence do not want to expose themselves because of the possibility of job losses, etc. Some land is owned by state, but the majority is of the landowners. In one village there are people who are terrorized and manipulated by the chairman of their agrarian community. And in fear they signed everything. On the other hand in other villages there are some people who believe they will get a lot of money and are therefore for wind factories, no matter what, but once again, in all those villages the majority is against it. Of course there is a bribe as well. The promoters for turbines went from house to house, from person to person bringing gifts and speaking sweet promising words. Together they established a Civil Initiative FOR WIND FARMS and collected signatures from some naive people, wrote a petition for turbines and took it directly to the Ministry for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning. Poster on the house of one of...
Press Release – An Bord Pleanála

Press Release – An Bord Pleanála

A funeral for citizens rights, will be held at An Bord Pleanála’s office on Thursday 9th April at 11am. Press Release – Start An Bord Pleanála are using the threat of huge legal bills to bully community groups who oppose wind or grid projects. This is a denial of access to justice for citizens and in clear breach of the Aarhus convention. The European Commission is currently investigating these issues. It is actively preparing a case against the Irish Government  on access to justice on environmental matters. However,  An Bord Pleanála carry on regardless, arrogant in the confidence that they will have delivered for Government before the European Commission investigation takes hold. One third of the nine-member board of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) have direct links to the wind/renewable industry while the former Chairman of ABP is now head of Eirgrid. The potential conflicts of interests of three members of the Bord are alarming and call into question the impartiality of decisions being made. Additionally, An Bord Pleanála are also ignoring a raft of European directives on environmental protection. A measure of this failure is that 75% of all wind applications in 2014 are now in the high court. Behind each one of these cases, is an entire community under duress, terrified that they will be forced to live in the shadow of pylons or wind turbines. Groups now believe that An Bord Pleanála are merely a mechanism for forcing through this government’s flawed energy policy where, in return for a spend of €13 billion, it seems we will have one of the highest electricity prices in Europe, achieve minuscule savings in CO2 emissions and fail to reach our 20/20 targets. A protest will be held at An Bord Pleanála office in Dublin...
Communities Under Attack

Communities Under Attack

Developers, Planning System And Judicial System Conspire To Lay Seige To Local Communities, Nationwide Dave Fingleton, weary from his own community’s defence in the High Court, wonders what happened to the conventions that were supposed to protect the environment and the rights of those concerned about protecting it. In a nutshell, the United Nations’ Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992)* declares that the Environment belongs to the people and not to the government. Principle 10 specifically states: “States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.” Further to this was the Aarhus Convention (1998)** which takes a rights-based approach: the public, both present and future generations, have the right to live in a healthy environment and to participate in and challenge decisions that may affect that environment. Implementing Aarhus primarily through Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and public participation directives, Europe (and indeed Ireland itself as a party to the convention) has guaranteed these rights to public participation in decision making and access to the courts and justice in environmental matters. For context, Article 3 of the Convention states: “1. Each Party shall take the necessary legislative, regulatory and other measures, including measures to achieve compatibility between the provisions implementing the information, public participation and access-to-justice provisions in this Convention, as well as proper enforcement measures, to establish and maintain a clear, transparent and consistent framework to implement the provisions of this Convention.” So much for the theory: what we have observed happening in practice paints...