A PLANNING application for the development of eight 180 metre wind turbines in South-East Clare will be lodged to Clare County Council next February.
RWE Renewables has unveiled plans for the development of the wind turbines at Fahy Beg, Fahy More North, Ballymoloney and Ballyknavin in Bridgetown.
RWE Renewables spokesman, Kieran O’Byrne, has also confirmed the next stage of the process is the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement.
In an interview with The Clare Champion, he said the company has sent out two information letters to residents in April and was planning to circulate a third one this Friday or next Monday.
He confirmed a company representative has met about 30 residents, some of those living less than one kilometre away are positive, some of the houesholders living more than two kilometres away are negative, and it is also receiving questions from people living further away.
He said the company is happy to talk to any resident and hoped to host an information workshop next July when the precise location of the wind turbines will become known following the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement.
Asked why the company hadn’t officially engaged with people living outside two kilometres in view of the fact these turbines will be seen from Birdhill and Ballina, he said this will be done during the next stage of their consultation with the local community when the precise location of turbines is decided.
Its brochure states investment in the proposed Fahy Beg Wind farm and local communities is expected to be “in the region of 30 million over its lifetime”.
Fahybeg Wind Farm Biodiversity and Conservation Group is a new group that has held two meetings with a view to informing the wider community about the tourism and environmental impact of the company’s plans.
It is planning further consultations with the local community and may host a meeting next month subject to Covid-19 restrictions.
A number of group members who spoke to The Clare Champion expressed concern the company is not willing to meet them as a community and only seems interested in one-to-one meetings to discuss this project.
While residents are not opposed to wind farms and support the development of renewable energy, they believe the area is not a suitable location for the proposed Fahy Beg Wind Farm.
Resident, James Skehan said these turbines will not only be seen from Bridgetown, they will easily be viewed from vantage points in Ballina and Birdhill.
“This will impact people in Limerick and Tipperary. There will be a lot more people affected by these turbines than people living in Bridgetown.”
Resident, Sean Conway questioned the timing and effectiveness of public consultation at this stage as the company has already signed an agreement with 12 local land owners to proceed with this development, pending planning permission.
He believes the proposed development will proceed to planning, regardless of what views are expressed during the company’s “public consultation” process.
He said the company are not willing to meet the group in a town hall public meeting and will only meet a few members in small groups.
“We are not against wind turbines but there is a place for them and it is not Fahy Beg. The ESB are proposing 1.5 gigawatts of electricity offshore with its Moneypoint development. Fahy Beg will only produce about 28 megawatts, which is about 2.5% of this and is miniscule.
One resident said the company had told him it couldn’t agree to a town hall meeting because they had experienced problems with previous similar large gatherings that required the assistance of security.
Another resident expressed concern that information is only being provided in “dribs and drabs”, which was in stark contrast to well published notification of work being conducted by Coillte near Killaloe.
The company told The Champion that it hopes to hold group meetings over a week long period in the local school hall, subject to Covid-19 regulations.
According to the company, the capacity of each proposed turbine could be in the range of three and a half to six megawatts, resulting in a total estimated capacity for the site of between 28 and 48 megawatts.
The majority of the proposed wind farm study area is agricultural and forestry land. The company believes these land uses could continue with a wind farm development at the site.
The land is in an area designated in the Clare County Development Plan Wind Energy Strategy 2017 to 2023 as “open to consideration” for wind farm development.
The wind farm doesn’t contain areas designated as European Protected Natura 2000 sites, meaning it is not a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) or Special Protection (SPA) and doesn’t contain any nationally designated Natural Heritage Areass (NHA).
Anyone who would like to contact the group or become a member can email [email protected]
by Dan Danaher