Energy companies want no minimum distance between wind turbines and family homes

Thursday 12 September 2013 19.10
1,000 tourists were questioned for the Fáilte Ireland survey
1,000 tourists were questioned for the Fáilte Ireland survey

Bord Na Móna, Coillte and the ESB have all separately lobbied the Government to exclude any statutory minimum distance between wind turbines and family homes, as part of a review into the wind sector in Ireland, RTÉ News has learned.

Current guidelines state that turbines built more than 500 metres from a residential property are unlikely to pose problems such as noise.

The guideline is not binding but is used as a rule by many local planning authorities.

Two Labour Senators, John Kelly and John Whelan, have co-sponsored a Wind Turbine Bill, to introduce a statutory minimum setback from family homes of 1.5km, which is strongly opposed by the wind sector.

Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan is currently reviewing the 2007 guidelines with a view to updating them.

According to submissions made as part of the ongoing review, the semi-State energy companies have all said it would be a mistake to include any minimum distance in the new rules.

ESB Wind Development, the ESB's wind farm company, said the introduction of any "rigid separation distance" would lead to "perverse" outcomes in terms of what wind farms were accepted and what would be refused by planners.

Coillte said an "arbitrary" minimum distance would have a negative effect on the development of sustainable energy in Ireland.

Bord na Móna said that a "one size fits all" approach to minimum distances between wind turbines and residential homes would lead to the "suboptimal" development of the wind sector in Ireland.

A selection of the submissions were released to RTÉ News by the Department of Environment following a request.

Meanwhile, more than seven out of ten tourists holidaying in Ireland said that the presence of wind farms had either a positive effect or "no impact" at all on their likelihood to visit the country again.

New research carried out for Fáilte Ireland finds, by contrast, that 24% of tourists said wind farms would negatively impact on any future plan they had to holiday in Ireland.

The unpublished study also shows that tourists would prefer to see turbines built on bogland or near urban areas rather than along the Irish coast or near good quality farmland, RTÉ has learned.

Fáilte Ireland will use this research to decide what planning applications for wind turbines it may or may not object to on the grounds of whether they are perceived to pose a risk to Ireland's tourism industry.

The findings are contained in a study carried out for the national tourism agency into how tourists perceive Ireland's growing wind farm industry.

It is the first major study of its kind in more than six years.

Around 1,000 domestic and foreign tourists who holidayed in Ireland during 2012 were questioned by research company Millward Brown Lansdowne.

The study also found that, given the choice, tourists preferred to see a few large turbines rather than a significant number of smaller turbines.

More than half of the tourists surveyed said they had seen a wind turbine on their travels around the country but 42% said they had not seen any.

Of those tourists who did see a wind turbine, 21% said it had a negative impact on their sightseeing. However, 32% said it actually enhanced it, while 47% said it made no difference one way or the other.

The Fáilte Ireland study also noted that "noise is not an obvious factor for three out of four visitors who saw a wind farm in 2012, despite the fact that it is often posed as an argument against constructing them".

The research was submitted by Fáilte Ireland to the Department of the Environment as part of an ongoing consultation into wind energy guidelines.

Permission granted for Roscommon wind turbine development 

Separately, An Bord Pleanála has given the go ahead for a 16 wind turbine development in Dysart in south Roscommon.

It rejected an appeal by Galetech Energy Developments and a campaign against the wind farm over a number of years.

The development is planned for the Cronin, Gortaphuill, Glenrevagh, Mullaghardagh, Tullyneeny and Turrock townlands in Dysart.