Deputy Willie Penrose

Penrose calls for environmental assessment of windfarm plans

Westmeath TD Willie Penrose has said there is a need for a Stretegic Environmental Assessment to be carried out on proposals to install more than 1,000 wind turbines across the Irish Midlands to deliver renewable energy to the UK. In a statement released today (Monday) Deputy Penrose said he was responding to the plans by Element Power and Mainstream Renewable Power to install a large number of turbines across the region. "As a firm supporter of our 20 per cent renewable energy target, I also support and will argue for the need to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of Ireland's overall onshore wind energy strategy," said the TD. "The previous government committed Ireland to a target of achieving 86% of our renewable energy production through the installation of onshore wind turbines. "As the recent AIRO (NUI Maynooth) Study highlighted, given the spatial distribution of housing in Ireland, this target cannot be achieved unless we retain the current wind farm planning guidelines, which allow wind turbines to be sited 500 metres from a family home. :This has implications in terms of noise, shadow flicker and impact on residential amenity and values, which is of concern to many families. "Having listened to these genuine concerns, and building on the work of Senator John Kelly, I published the Environment and Public Health (Wind Turbines) Bill 2012 last November. "The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) has suggested that this proposal is unacceptable because it proposes an evidence-based setback distance from family homes instead of the one-size-fits-all setback of 500 metres in the current guidelines. "The 500 metre setback rule, which followed the 1997 English ETSU guidelines, was established at a time when, according to the European Wind Energy Association, average wind turbine heights were 54 metres. "Current planning applications for wind turbines in Ireland are for turbines more than twice that size, with an average height of 125-146 metres - and the plans for the proposed Midlands wind farms are suggesting wind turbines with an average height of 180 metres. "Individually any of these developments have impacts on the landscape and environment which need to be assessed." Deputy Penrose said the plans had the potential to profoundly change the face of our landscape and the lives of thousands of families who will live close to these developments. "In 2011, a Strategic Environmental Assessment was undertaken of the likely significant environmental effects of implementing Ireland's offshore wind energy plans - quite rightly too. "We have yet to undertake a Strategic Environmental Assessment of our onshore wind energy plans, despite the fact that we are almost half way toward reaching our targets. "I welcome Minister Pat Rabbitte's statement that we need 'a plan-led approach' to our onshore wind energy plan and would ask when the public, who contribute financially to the delivery of this plan through the Public Service Obligation levy, will have an opportunity to participate in its formulation?"