Wind farms will be subjected to stricter noise limits and increased set-back distances under final draft guidelines due to be published today. The guidelines will also aim to tackle shadow flicker — the blinking shade that rotating turbines cast on nearby homes and buildings.
The Government has set an ambitious target to move to 70% renewable electricity by 2030 with wind energy expected to play a big part.
Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy will today put the guidelines out to public consultation. They focus on a number of key aspects including noise, visual amenity setback, shadow flicker, community consultation obligations, community dividend, and grid connections.
Communities and campaigners have been waiting since June 2017 for the issuing of these final draft proposals and it is expected to be the middle of next year before the signed-off guidelines are published and enforced by local authorities.
Noise from wind energy developments will now be subject to a limit of five decibels above existing background noise up to a maximum permitted noise limit of 43 decibels, day or night.
This is a tightening of the 2006 noise standards in line with the most up-to-date, best international standards.
The implementation of a new robust noise monitoring framework is also proposed. Wind farms will be forced to operate automatic shadow flicker control mechanisms where they affect homes and properties.
The guidelines state that, should any shadow flicker occur and impact on nearby properties, the relevant wind turbines will be shut down for the duration of the shadow flicker.
Wind turbines will now have to be set back at least four times the tip height between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling, subject to a mandatory minimum distance of 500m.
To put this in context, a wind turbine of 180m will now have to be at least 720m from the nearest dwelling, as against the current non-mandatory minimum requirement of 500m. This setback requirement will also have to comply with the noise limits.
Finally, wind energy developers will be required to engage in mandatory consultations with communities at an early stage in the process, at pre-planning stage, and will further be required to prepare a community report as part of the planning application.