New statutory wind farm design guide expected in early 2018

New statutory guidelines on wind farm design are expected to issue to planning authorities early in 2018.

The government’s review of the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines has resulted in a preferred draft approach, which outgoing Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government Simon Coveney said strikes the appropriate balance between facilitating future wind energy projects and addressing the genuine concerns of local communities.

The approach was agreed in conjunction with Communications Minister Denis Naughten.

Key aspects of the proposed approach are:

  • a more stringent noise limit, consistent with World Health Organisation standards, in tandem with a new robust noise monitoring regime, to ensure compliance with noise standards.
  • a visual amenity setback of four times the turbine height between a wind turbine and the nearest residential property, subject to a mandatory minimum distance of 500 metres.
  • elimination of shadow flicker.
  • and new obligations in relation to engagement with local communities by wind farm developers, along with provision of community benefit measures.

In line with requirements under the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (the SEA Directive), an SEA will be undertaken on the proposed approach, to ensure environmental considerations are fully integrated in preparation of plans and programmes, to provide a framework for development consent or planning permission.

Guidelines can then be issued to planning authorities.

It is proposed that where there is evidence of non-compliance with noise limits, wind turbines will be required to be turned off until compliance with the noise limits is proven.

The proposed approach for elimination of shadow flicker will require design stage technology and appropriate modelling

The proposals will require developers to have early and constructive consultation with communities on proposed wind farm developments before a planning application is made.

A Community Report would be required to be submitted with a planning application, outlining how the final proposal was shaped in response to those consultations.

Community dividend (or benefit) is proposed to be a core component of future wind farm development, requiring developers to offer a form of community dividend that will ensure the project will be of enduring economic benefit to the local communities.

It is proposed, from a visual amenity aspect, that connections from wind farms to the national electricity grid will, except where ground conditions prevent it, be underground in future.

The proposed approach will be further supported by the “Good Practice for Wind Energy Development Guidelines” issued by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in December 2016.

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