In the heart of the night a convoy of lorries is moving slowly along the winding roads of Co Offaly.

 By Ciaran Mullooly, RTÉ Midlands Correspondent

It is now 4.30am. Apart from the distant call of a grey heron on the grand canal, all is quiet here.

But the lorries on the Tullamore bypass are on their way to the sleepy townland of Mountlucas - 21km away from the county town and even closer to Edenderry on the Kildare border - with their cargo.

They are about to give this little quiet corner of the midlands the landmark features that will dominate here for generations to come.

It is the first major industrial development targeted for this district for decades; presenting the local population with some of the tallest turbines in Ireland.

On the back of the lorries the seven letters of the Siemens brand name shout out the code name for this complicated transport operation, which has now become a regular feature of life in the dark around these roads.

For weeks now, the people behind the new Bord na Móna wind farm at Mountlucas have been moving in the 28 giant turbines onto the site during the night.

The operation is clearly planned to ensure as little disruption of traffic in these parts as possible.

However, under the cloak of darkness, the manoeuvre has also left some locals deeply cynical about the quiet but very definite nature of the way their landscape is about to change.

Of course, the planning process for all this was completely transparent.

Mountlucas is based entirely on a flat bog with just trees for company.

Nobody in the community will have to live within 800 metres of the giant turbines if they do not want to, never mind 500 metres, the regulated distance being sought by many at the moment.

So, this has been one of the less controversial developments to hit the radar here.

Bord na Móna has seized the initiative to push on with it and even build bigger plans along the same scale for elsewhere on their giant tracks of peatlands.

I wandered onto the site of the wind farm in Mountlucas before Christmas to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary foundations for the tower stems and blades that will soon spin here to create electricity for the national grid.

It was a strange experience, a bit like one of those early scenes in the movie Jurassic park, driving down in the passenger seat of a 4x4 jeep through the site, from one giant hole in the bog to the next.

We traced the route all the way from the first turbine to the 28th on the site, as if something quite colossal had just been leaping out before us every time, leaving in its wake an extraordinary foot print where dozens of men scurried around to pile-drive and pour concrete in its wake.

In total there were 28 gigantic holes in the bog, each of them it seemed to me capable of hiding a very decent small jet.

The truth is Bord na Móna's first serious foray into wind farming in Co Offaly has been good for employment here.

Whether you agree or disagree with the principles behind these giants, the construction phase has kept young people from these areas at home and in gainful employment.

Every day they travel from Tipperary, Meath and elsewhere to these sites to prepare for the next turbine - the wooden frames pushed and pulled into position over a tangled web of steel that will make the foundations even more secure for the Siemens gear that is on the way.

This development has been like Christmas every day for the cement business in this region.

On site this week, somebody told me that it takes more than €60,000 worth of cement to fill each and every foundation for a turbine.

That is a lot of dough for a business that has been in free fall since the construction business crumbled. It also means jobs have been stabilised as a result.

The tragedy for the midlands is that the turbines themselves are not being made here.

From a very early stage we were told by international experts it was neither practical nor viable for Siemens, or any of the world's largest manufacturers, to base a manufacturing facility here.

However, locals were given hope and fine words of encouragement at several high-profile conferences in Tullamore and elsewhere that there would be a knock-on economic effect from the arrival of thousands of the turbines for local industry.

Jobs would be created in the manufacture of other components, such as the blades, and it would be a win-win situation for the people, who were being asked to live within sight of the giant propellers  and who would see their local landscape transformed forever.

Ironically, Portarlington, which is not far from Mountlucas, was one of the towns that could have badly done with the boost.

Once the proud home of the renowned international steel firm Butlers, 'Port' is nowadays home to hundreds of Dublin families who moved there in the boom to find a house at a reasonable price. But the town is now feeling the crippling effect of the recession.

The unemployment rate there is soaring, yet the old Butler Steel site was so vast and so well-equipped once it could easily have provided a base for a turbine manufacturer - even at a different scale - yet nothing happened and no such base was ever created.

I asked Bord na Móna's head of power generation John Reilly the question again this week; when so many wind farms are now being talked about for the midlands, why couldn't the industrialists of this region pull together, borrow the capital and build the plant?

Surely it did not need a financial whizz kid to work out there will be money to be made in this area.

The answer, Mr Reilly says, is that the turbine manufacturers want to see definite business on their books before they fork out on any investment.

You might say they are looking for concrete evidence that the business will be there for them in the next ten years.

In reality, that means they would want to see both the planning applications going in at a faster rate and the decisions made even quicker to allow these huge developments to go ahead.

But we are a long way off that scenario yet, as thousands of residents quite rightly provide searching questions on the scale of it all.

So while the €120m investment in Mountlucas is welcome, the reality is that once the construction stage is over and the giant blades begin to rotate here for the first time in mid-summer, the maximum number of new jobs created by this wind farm will have been well less than 200. Many of those jobs are not permanent either.

When the switch is turned on in July, a far smaller number will work on ongoing maintenance and engineering here.

That is something the critics of the project have always pointed to as being the biggest weakness of it all; the failure of such a dramatic industrial development that is going to take such a toll on the aesthetics of the Irish countryside to take any meaningful long-term toll on unemployment levels in this region.

I know some in the midlands are not giving up on this.

Dominic Doheny of the Midlands Gateway Chamber group told me only this week the wind energy project still has the potential to create hundreds of jobs in the support sector for the turbines.

Even the manufacturing of ladders for inside the turbines could be done here, he claims.

The problem is, the project is already well advanced and the only thing many can still see is less than 20 full-time sustainable jobs on farms such as the one opening soon in Mountlucas.

The turbine convoys in the middle of the night will come to an end at the end of March.

The white Siemens brand name will be raised slowly over each and every one of those 28 giant holes in the bog and this project will start to make money.

The tallest turbines in Ireland will soar over thousands of acres of bogland and trees.

Nothing can stop it here now, but such cannot be said about the dozens of other wind farm projects in a queue behind it, which are all heading slowly towards the planning process.

The lorries carrying those turbines have not yet been lined up in Dublin port.

We have yet to see how many of them will actually be needed once the new dawn of wind energy in the midlands has broken.