THERE was a large turnout for last Wednesday night's public meeting to discuss the Draft Wind Energy Strategy which forms part of the draft Mayo County Development Plan.
The meeting, chaired by Councillor Michelle Mulherin, heard from representatives of the Mayo Wind Energy Agency, Surface Power, Kilalla Community Wind Farm, the Irish Wind Energy Association and Eirgrid who all gave there opinion on the current state of wind energy in Ireland and in Mayo in particular.
However there was no representative from the Dublinbased officials that drafted the current plan.
The large audience asked why no one was present to explain their decision to exclude half the county from putting up any new wind farms. Cllr Mulherin and her fellow Cllr Eddie Staunton claimed that the senior planner had agreed to attend the meeting but that he had been blocked from doing so by Mayo County Council.
The meeting was a chance for the public to hear from experts in the field of wind energy and to give their opinion on the current proposed plan for Mayo. On the way into the meeting a copy of the plan was available for viewing but from the outset there were some concerned voices. With regard to planning permission for wind farms, or even single wind turbines, the county is to be split down the middle.
A line running North- South down the centre of the county shows that no permission will be given for wind farms in the West of the county even though this is where the highest winds speeds are found and where it would be most economically viable to set up a wind turbine. This draft plan had been prepared by experts in Dublin who were attempting to preserve the scenic beauty of the West of the county and to protect the peat lands in the area.
There was serious issues raised by people at the meeting last night regarding this blanket ban on the western half of the county. Pat Brett from IWEA maintained that it was possible to retain the beauty of the West and that there were also best practice guidelines with regard erecting wind turbines in peat lands.
One dissenting voice in the audience didn't have much regard for the experts who drew up these plans. "I think that it must have been Swampy the eco-warrior that drew up these plans while he was protesting underground at the Newgrange bypass and has never even seen the West of Ireland," the audience member said.
County Council members have until next Friday (November 23) to make final changes to the Draft County Development Plan.