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The controversial wind turbine near the village of Parteen. Photograph by John Kelly

Company says controversial wind turbine essential to survive

THE manager of a Parteen factory, which constructed a “100 metre tall wind turbine” that is “taller than the tower housing Big Ben in London” in the wrong place, has revealed their electricity costs have almost trebled over a 12-month period.

An Enforcement Notice issued by Clare County Council on March 8, 2021 requested Limerick Blow Moulding to decommission and remove a wind turbine erected near the factory on or before Thursday, April 8, 2021 following an alleged breach of a planning permission condition.

However, this wind turbine, which has attracted numerous planning objections from residents, two Clare deputies Cathal Crowe and Violet-Anne Wynne and Senator Timmy Dooley, is still in situ but is not operational.

It has also been claimed by Deputy Crowe this wind turbine is “visually obtrusive” when viewed from local scenic areas including the Shannon River, St Thomas’s Island and King John’s Castle in Limerick City

The company recently applied for retention permission for a revised site boundary and revised position of a single 800 KW wind turbine, 73 metres high to hub height, as granted under previous planning permissions at Gortatogher, Parteen.

Employing 70 people, with more than half living in Parteen, Clonlara and Killaloe, the company manufactures food packaging for the Irish Dairy industry, and pharmaceutical packaging for export into the UK and Europe.

It is a family-owned business, located on the family farm, which started operation in 1959. During the 63 years of operation, the company has been the largest employer in the area, apart from when Burlington Textiles operated out of Gillogue.

In his written submission supporting this application on behalf of management and staff of Limerick Blow Moulding, factory manager, Mark Stanton, outlined the war in Ukraine had transformed their wind turbine project from a key advantage into a necessity for survival.

He described the shock of seeing the 270% increase in their electricity bill from €97,000 in February 2021 to €296,000 in February 2022 as “disturbing to say the least”.

“The output from the turbine has become the difference between continuing employment or not.

“Ireland is already running way behind with its CO2 emission reduction targets. We have gone ahead with a self-financed sustainable project without government aid, which can make a real difference.

“The carbon saving from the wind turbine is equivalent to planting 60,000 trees. We have had many supporting calls from locals, with children and students continually asking about a tour, to see it in operation.

“The wind turbine planning grant is for just 20 years of operation. For sure, other technologies will be developed to help reverse climate change in the world. However, now we need to do everything we can to prevent the problem becoming irreversible.”

Stating the wind turbine would produce 25% of the factory’s energy requirements, he outlined Vistakon in Castletroy has a wind turbine running for more than six years, which is three times the size of the Parteen one at 2,300 kw compared to 900 kw.

“We specifically picked this smaller model for its low noise output and overall lower impact. The turbine has full flicker control. The capacity to run it below both the noise and flicker level, specified in our planning permission is built in “On the occasions when the conditions for flicker exist, it automatically stops.”

Seamus Madden, c/o Limerick Blow Moulding, was granted planning permission to erect a single 800kW wind turbine, 73 meters high with a rotor diameter of 53 meters, and with ancillary road access at Knockballynameath, Parteen on May 28 2010, subject to 12 planning conditions.

Before planning permission expired, an application for an extension of time was submitted by the applicant and this was granted on January 26, 2016, extending planning permission until 2021.

In a submission to the planning authority, MKO Planning and Environmental Consultants recalled the council received a number of submissions objecting to the development, which was constructed on February 13, 2021.

On March 2, 2021, a council survey found the wind turbine was built about 37 metres to the north-east of the location that had been granted planning permission.

Speaking in Kilbane on Tuesday night, Senator Timmy Dooley told the Clare Champion he was shocked this wind turbine was initially granted planning permission in view of the fact it wasn’t identified as an area of strategic importance for wind development.

Even if the wind turbine was built in the proper location in compliance with the planning permission, he pointed out some residents would still be opposed to it.

In his objection to planning retention submitted to the local planning authority, he claimed this “100 metre tall wind turbine is taller than the tower, which houses Big Ben in London”.

He alleged the recommended 500 metre set back distance from occupied dwelling houses as outlined in the national Wind Energy Guidelines has not been adhered to.

He recalled a planning application for a 20 metre high Eircom telecommunications mast in Westbury was refused planning permission two years ago on grounds it would seriously injure residential and visual amenities.

In his objection, Deputy Crowe claimed it is grossly out of place in a village and residential environment and would be far more suited to a rural remote area.

In view of the fact, this turbine was constructed in a different location from what was granted, he questioned whether information provided by the company relating to potential noise and flicker impact were still relevant.

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