Wednesday 10 February 2010

Council still awaits new details on wind farms

DONEGAL County Council is awaiting further details on contentious plans for a wind farm near Glenties, with up to 35 turbines that would be higher than the Spire in Dublin’s O’Connell Street.

The turbines, each with a hub height of 80 metres and a blade diameter of 90 metres, would be located in the townlands of Graffy, Meenagrubby, Meenaleenaghan, Meenachuit, Dalraghan More, Meenamenragh, Meenavale, Greenans, Stralinchy and Mully.

The developer, Ballybofey businessman PJ Molloy, owns some land in the area – known for its mountain scenery – and has negotiated permission from local farmers to locate the V90 turbines on their properties, reportedly for a rent of €12,000 annually.

Although its name is not mentioned in the planning application, the project is backed by a German company, Wind Prospect, which describes itself as “a leading independent wind energy developer . . . working in the UK, Ireland, China, Australia, New Zealand and Canada”. To date, Wind Prospect has “developed and/or constructed some 50 projects across the world in some of the most challenging locations and terrains”, with over 1,000MW on approved sites and a further 400MW at various stages in the development process.

Last November, Donegal County Council planners sought further information on the Glenties plan, including the omission of four of the 3MW turbines, after it emerged two householders had not given consent to have them located within 500m of their homes.

Altogether, 54 houses would be located within 2km of one or more of the turbines. Of these, 49 would be within 1km, 21 within 500m, 18 within 400m, six within 250m, four within 150 metres, two within 100m, and one within 500m of seven turbines.

The council’s 11-point request also sought details on which turbines would exceed the noise levels in the Department of the Environment’s wind energy guidelines, saying it had “concerns regarding the noise levels affecting a number of adjacent properties”.

The department had expressed concern that the proposed development “could significantly damage or destroy” the habitats of freshwater pearl mussel, Atlantic salmon and otter, all of which are listed species for protection under the EU habitats directive.

In its further information request, the council sought an “appropriate assessment” of the potential impact of the turbines on the site’s conservation objectives, as well as more firm proposals to avoid siltation and water pollution of the Owenea and other rivers.

Letterkenny planning consultants Harley Newman, acting for Mr Molloy, said they were “conscious of the legal time limit of six months within which we must respond” and would revert to the planners following discussions between their client’s consultant ecologist and the department.

In total, 63 objections have been made against the proposed development, mainly on the grounds of its scale, visual impact, noise and other risks.

There are also fears that it could set a precedent for four or five other wind farms in various stages of planning for the area.

Irish Times

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