Residents in a west Waterford townland have lodged an appeal to Bord Pleanála against Waterford Council’s decision to grant planning for a solar farm on a 74-acre rural site.
The company Engie Developments Ireland Ltd, a subsidiary of global energy giant Engie, has earmarked a site at Poulboutia, seven kilometres north of Cappoquin, to construct power-generating units mounted on metal frames, inclusive of an electrical control building and up to eight inverter units.
Engie is reportedly the world’s largest independent power producer, with a payroll of 150,000 across 70 countries. It boasted a €66.6bn turnover in 2017.
Waterford Council granted the company 25-year planning with 17 conditions.
But angry locals say the development is totally unsuitable, visually, posing a health and safety risk and not likely to provide extra employment.
They also claim the council may have been misled as a map, with the planning application, did not depict some residential units near the site.
Central to the appeal lodged by the Affane Concerned Community Group is its contention that a failure by Engie to provide an Environmental Impact Statement by not yet seeking planning for a grid connection makes the application “incomplete and invalid”.
The appeal says Waterford Council contravened legislation by facilitating a ‘split project’ application contrary to a landmark ruling in O’Griann v Bord Pleanála in 2014 that grid connection cannot be regarded as separate planning.
The appeal insists the application had denied the public the right to make a fully informed decision on the project.
While the company’s application speculated it could later connect to a 38 kv substation 2.5 km south, the appeal stipulates that the substation is actually an insufficient 10 kv structure, it was also claimed.
The appeal noted traffic is already high volume with heavy vehicles daily accessing a nearby poultry farm and other agricultural and general traffic frequenting narrow roads.
Other concerns voiced in appeals include a risk to health through radio frequencies from the relatively high number of inverters, the risk of 'flying debris' during a storm and the lack of national guidelines.
However, the company's business development manager, John McGarry said “Engie wants to continue to engage with local residents" and intends to respond to the comments and local concerns through the appeals' process.