Wind farm plan sparks airport’s safety fears

A regional airport is opposing plans for a wind farm, on the grounds that it may cause hazards for aircraft using the facility.

Kerry Airport authorities have lodged an objection with An Bord Pleanála against a decision by Kerry County Council last month to grant planning permission for a wind farm near Brosna, on the Cork-Kerry border.

The six-turbine wind farm is proposed for the same site as a wind-monitoring mast which was given retention planning permission last year, despite objections from the airport.

Airport manager Peter Moore had warned the mast posed a danger to planes and that pilot error could result in a plane crashing into the 80-metre mast with potentially “disastrous” consequences.

He said the mast was in a critical area of approach to the airport and that flights by a specialised aircraft used to calibrate the airport’s guidance systems had to be called off on a number of occasions because of the mast.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), however, said the mast was not a danger to normal aircraft operations at the airport but suggested specialist aircraft, that calibrate the navigation aids at the airport, may need to amend their flight procedures to take the mast into account.

Planning permission for the wind farm on the same site at Coollegrean Hill, Brosna, was granted by the council on Jan 2.

A decision on the appeal is due on May 28.

Meanwhile, concerns have been expressed that Kerry already has too many wind farms, with claims that they are having an adverse impact on scenery that attracts almost 2m visitors every year.

More than 170 wind turbines are currently operating on elevated areas in the leading tourist county and planning permission has been granted for a further 200 turbines.

Kerry is providing more wind energy to the national grid than any other county, with 13.65% of the national total.

A renewable energy strategy in Kerry does not allow wind farms on Natura 2000 sites and other specially-designated sites of high environmental value. Buffer zones must also be provided between such sites and wind farms.

Under EU directives, the council is also obliged to protect the endangered hen harrier in a large elevated area where much wind farm development has already taken place. An estimated 45 hen harrier breeding pairs are in the area.

The area in question, stretching from the Stacks Mountains to the Mullaghareirk Mountains, and including the Mount Eagle area skirting the towns of Tralee, Castleisland and Ballydesmond, contains the biggest concentration of wind farms in Co Kerry.


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