Wind energy is set to become a major battleground in the new Kerry County Development Plan.
The subject has attracted more submissions than any other issues in the first public consultation for the development plan, with tourist bodies saying big turbines are not compatible with the county’s main industry, tourism.
Dozens of individual submissions, from East and north Kerry, are questioning the benefit to Kerry of wind energy and say the north of the county, which was opened up to wind by the council in 2012, has enough.
Kerry has over 350 wind turbines and already produces around 740 MW of electricity, or just under one fifth of the entire country’s wind energy. The figure is set to increase further with around fifty more turbines to be erected.
However, fears over property devaluation, health effects, noise and disturbance are being expressed and several submissions question the real benefits locally.
The Irish Wind Energy Association says wind is of “huge” economic value to the county.
“While these wind farms are contributing to our national targets, they are also creating huge benefits for Kerry County Council itself,” the IWEA said.
The council in Kerry earns over €3.5m from rates from wind, the IWEA added.
Coillte also point to economic benefits of wind energy to farmers, communities and local authority income streams, and is urging the council to remove planning conditions that limit the turbines.
Tourist bodies in Killarney have come out strongly against proposals for wind farms east of the town, bluntly saying wind is not compatible with tourism.
“Wind turbines are detrimental to tourism,” the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) Kerry branch says.
“The visual impact of the turbines is not suitable to any tourist area and not in keeping with its surroundings and would seriously injure the amenity of the area,” said Killarney hotelier Bernadette Randles, chair of Kerry IHF.
The Killarney Chamber of Commerce and Tourism is also firmly opposed to wind development in east Kerry.
However, Failte Ireland is suggesting the development of a renewable energy trail in north Kerry where there are hundreds of turbines much to the fury of locals there.
Community economic activist John O’Sullivan of Listowel says the national tourism agency should promote the history and scenery of north Kerry.
The council’s landscape character assessment of 2012 which said north Kerry was of no particular amenity value and so was suitable for wind farms needs to be revoked, he also submits.
The submissions will inform the drafting of the new 20222-2028 county plan over the coming months and the public will be asked again for their views.