THE developers of a proposed €100 million windfarm in West Clare have been accused of misrepresenting the tourism and long-term employment benefits from the development.
According to a feasibility study completed by Jennings O’Donovan and Partners for Clare Coastal Wind Power, the windfarm has good wind regime, good access points, good grid connection options, is not located within a Designated Area of Conservation and would enhance tourism in the Doonbeg area.
The study claimed the development, which extends into Kilrush, Doonbeg and Cooraclare parishes, would not impact the vistas of the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ballyea waterfall, the Burren and Spanish Point where North Atlantic views form the main scenic amenity.
“It is evident that the Doonbeg tourism industry revolves around coastal scenery and amenity and therefore it is not anticipated the proposal will cause any negative impact,” it stated.
The study also cited an independent report produced by Sustainable Energy Ireland in 2003 called Attitudes towards the development of windfarms in Ireland, which found 80% of people supported the construction of a windfarm in their area, while 25% felt that windfarms superimposed on highly scenic landscapes and impacted negatively on the view.
However, the newly-formed Rural Protection Group, has stated this claim “is beyond belief and is an insult to the community that has worked so hard for many years to develop a quality tourism product”.
Acknowledging the development would not impact the vistas of the Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ballyea Waterfall and the Burren because they are so far away, the new group claimed it would do untold damage to Doonbeg, Cree, Cooraclare, Kilkee, Kilrush and West Clare.
It questioned how the reports cited by the developers could be independent when they were commissioned by wind energy companies and alleged they didn’t quote the findings of an actual independent report commissioned by the Scottish Tourism Board that contradict the findings of the British Wind Energy report.
According to the group, the findings show 15% of those surveyed by VISITSCOTLAND answered categorically that they would steer clear of an area with a wind development.
Nationally, this would result in the loss of over 3,750 tourist-related jobs, 430,000 trips and over £80m in revenue. A further 10% said they would be “less likely” to return to the Scottish countryside if the number of windpower sites increased. If these are included, the figures rise to over 6,250 jobs, 780,000 trips and nearly £140m in lost revenue. These losses do not include the self-employed or those working in the grey economy.
“We are extremely concerned that facts are being misrepresented and this also applies in relation to employment. We totally agree that there will be local employment for some people during construction stage and local quarries will benefit and we welcome that. What we do not agree with, and there is substantial evidence that we are correct, is the issue of long-term employment,” the statement outlined.
The group also referred to evidence contained in their Environmental Impact Statement which stated, “The equipment to be installed within the IPP control buildings will also include electrical switchgear for the protection of the wind turbines, metering and monitoring equipment and a Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) System. The SCADA system will allow for off-site monitoring, via telephone connection, both at the developer’s premises and at the headquarters of the turbine manufacturer. The installation of a SCADA System avoids the need for staffing by the development of the wind farm except during routine planned maintenance visits or during breakdown.”
During the operational phase, the company stated, “A service contract will be entered into with the turbine manufacturer to facilitate the proper operation and maintenance of the turbines. While routine operation and monitoring will be carried out remotely via the SCADA System, the following visits to site are envisaged: six-month service, three-week visit by four technicians; annual service, six-week visit by four technicians; weekly visit by developer or agents to check over the site, notices and so on.”
It also states that some “unscheduled visits may arise as a result of malfunction, damage by lightning or vandalism”. The developers have also stated that in order to keep traffic on the proposed site to a minimum, they will use the same service company who service the Monmore development. This company is based in Kerry and a service technician visits and leaves after work completed.
“What this guarantees in specialist technician jobs is nine weeks’ work for each of four technicians employed by maintenance company and the developer will take care of the rest as currently happens in the operational wind farm in Monmore.
“The developer makes yet another unsubstantiated claim in relation to employment at viewing tower by stating that another six to eight full-time jobs will be created during the operation of the viewing tower. No quantitative analysis is done in relation to the seasonal operational time phase, the costs involved, including insurance, public liability, health and safety costs, wages and employer costs yet figures for employment, which are simply not credible are tossed about.
It is very difficult to have any credibility in this report when there are so many issues either not address or misrepresented to the advantage of the developer. The reality will hit the local community when it’s too late,” the statement from the group claimed.
A spokesman for Clare Coastal Wind Power declined to comment on the claims made in the statement.
According to Jennings and O’Donovan Partners, the development will be of strategic economic importance to the country because it aims to generate enough electricity to supply up to 72,450 households and will indirectly benefit the region by providing a power supply platform to develop industrial sectors.
It will also avoid the annual discharge of 207,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide – the equivalent energy production from 77,280 tonnes of oil a year.