Proposal to keep wind turbines 700m from homes

Wind turbines may be required to be a minimum of 700 metres from residential dwellings under proposals being considered by Environment Minister Alan Kelly.

He is shortly due to publish revised planning guidelines on the construction of windfarms, and it is understood that, in addition to increasing the minimum distance from residential dwellings, it will also include a height-to-distance mechanism, whereby the taller the turbine, the greater the distance it must be from residential properties.

Were the plans to be put it in place, it would shrink the amount of locations in the country that could accommodate wind turbines, particularly as the trend in recent years is for taller, larger turbines.

RTE’s This Week programme said it understood that the minister was personally in favour of the proposals, which are to be unveiled shortly.

They come after a consultation process, which resulted in more than 7,000 submissions being received, many understood to be opposed to windfarms.

However, Ireland has pledged to meet new targets for renewable energy, with expectations that 40% of the country’s renewable energy can be derived from wind power by 2020. Final planning permission has been granted for more than 250 wind turbines in the past two years, according to an analysis of cases before An Bord Pleanála, with indications of moves towards larger windfarms that link directly into the energy grid, rather than smaller, one-off turbines.

Ireland is on target to meet its goal of 40% of renewable energy in electricity by 2020. That forms part of an overall EU-set target of 16% of renewable energy contribution of overall energy use by 2020, comprising transport, heat, and electricity.

While Ireland vies to meet those targets, there has been considerable opposition within communities around the country to the construction of windfarms.

Speaking to This Week, Labour TD Willie Penrose said any new guidelines would need to reflect concerns among the public about windfarms. He said that windfarms could prove to be an issue in the upcoming general election, and he argued that it had certainly been a factor in some areas in last year’s local elections.

The Department of the Environment is currently revising the wind energy guidelines, following public consultation, while the Department of Communications, Energy, and Natural Resources is preparing a renewable electricity policy and development framework.

It is understood Mr Kelly is personally in favour of increasing the minimum distance between residential properties and wind turbines.

Many of the recent applications for wind farms are for larger, megawatt turbines. A total of 157 cases for decision related to wind came before An Bord Pleanála in 2013 and 2014.

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