Opposition to wind turbines on the rise

IT’S AN upland landscape that has inspired poets and traditional musicians for centuries, but it could soon be dominated by lofty wind turbines, writes Donal Hickey

People strongly objecting to 150m turbines in an area along the Cork/Kerry border have been collecting expert evidence which must be submitted to An Bord Pleanála before the deadline in the latest planning appeal expires today (July 24).

The Sliabh Luachra Windfarm Awareness Group is opposing plans by Silver Birch Renewables Ltd to erect 14 turbines in several holdings in Gneeveguilla and Ballydesmond. The company is appealing against a Kerry County Council decision to refuse planning.

Government policy is to support windfarms, but there’s growing opposition countrywide and Ireland is most unlikely to meet the target laid down by the EU — that 16% of our energy must come from renewable sources by 2020. So far, we’ve hit just over 9%.

Opposition to wind turbines is rising here as a David-versus-Goliath situation continues, with small rural communities taking on big investors who have official support.

A key issue is the closeness of turbines to people’s homes. The closer the turbines get to residences, the more vehement the opposition. Around 180 houses are within range of the proposed turbines and there are already more than 40 turbines in adjoining areas, according to Shaun O’Rourke, of the Sliabh Luachra Windfarm Awareness Group.

“We want no more,’’ he says bluntly.

Politicians in Co Kerry claim the county already has enough turbines to generate 14% of the country’s wind energy, which is disproportionate, with planning granted for more than 400 turbines in the county.

Places like the Dingle Peninsula and Killarney are exempt because of the value of the scenery to tourism, but large tracts of the county are open to consideration for windfarms. Initially, turbines were erected in quite remote areas, but now developers are moving towards more densely populated areas. Bitter divisions are being created in communities and more people are now calling for turbines to be erected at sea.

Portuguese scientist Mariana Alves-Pereira has been researching the impacts of turbines on animal and human health. She is currently addressing a number of groups around Ireland. She is examining infra-sound (energy created by sound which humans cannot hear), and low frequency noise (the sound generated by wind turbines).

She believes more research is needed to determine a safe distance for houses from turbines.

In Ontario, Canada, the distance is 550m for smaller turbines and 1,500m for larger ones.

Here, suggested distances range from a minimum of 500m to ten times the height of 150m turbines.


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