“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 on to helpfully say: “With so much at stake, we will continue to devote all our efforts in helping both governments to find a way through the policy difficulties.” Again, sounds like Element Power is pretty committed to going ahead to me.

Any why wouldn’t they? Mainstream and Element have invested a lot of time and money signing up thousands of lease options. There’s no way they’re just going to walk away from that. They’ll either stick with it and do everything they can to get the project to delivery, or perhaps more likely, sell on the options to another developer/investor.

And I know in my own county of Laois, wind farm developers are still approaching land owners to sign lease options in the Portlaoise area. This is happening now.

All of the above relates to the Midlands export project only.

  1. In terms of increasing wind capacity for the Irish market, depressingly plenty is happening. In Offaly and Laois alone:
  2. The construction of 28 150m turbines in Mount Lucas, Offaly as written about here.
  3. The recent An Bord Pleanála approval for the development of 32 160m turbines in Rhode, Offaly.
  4. We are still awaiting the An Bord Pleanála decision on the Coillte proposal to build 18 150m turbines on Cullenagh mountain, Laois.
  5. Next door to me, Element Power has lodged an application for the erection of an 80m meteorological mast for a period of 30 years near Stradbally, Laois. They would not do this if they were no longer active in the market.
  6. At the Irish Wind Farmers Association conference in Portlaoise in May, AIB stated that they wanted to lend up to €1 billion to the sector. Remember, this is for the smaller scale farms for the domestic market, not the mammoth export project that Mainstream and Element are engaged with, so this is a substantial commitment from just one lender.

And Element Power through their Greenwire project have just applied for a pre-planning consultation with An Bord Pleanála for 50 turbines in Meath.

So no, they haven’t gone away.

By Mary Byrne