Gaybrook windfarm approaches endgame

A total of 334 submissions and opinions have been received by Westmeath County Council from the public and other interested parties concerning the proposed windfarm between Gaybrook and Miltownpass, by last week’s March 4 deadline for such. The Cootehill-based firm, Gaeltech Energy Ltd, lodged its application with Westmeath County Council on January 29 and a decision is expected by March 25.

There are 251 houses within one kilometre of a proposed turbine, 11 of which are owned by landowners providing sites for the turbines to Gaeltech’s €25m project.

This week the Mullingar Advertiser looked at the detailed and exhaustive plans submitted by the Cavan firm to the council to erect the twelve 135m (443ft ), turbines in a triangle of land between Gaybrook, Milltownpass and Rochfortbridge.

The turbines, each of which will be more than three times the height of the cathedral (42m ) in Mullingar, are expected to generate up to €0.5 million worth of free electricity each year from 2013.

They will be visible from Cullion, Kinnegad and Croghan Hill in Co Offaly, just under 10km away, and could be visible from Tullamore and Delvin if you are on a tall building on a clear day, according to the photomontages and radar projections provided in the planning application. However, at these distances the turbines look smaller than matchsticks on the horizon and are regularly obscured at closer distances by the treeline and hedgerows.

This view was supported by Mr Bernard Dee, a former planning inspector and now consultant contracted to help orchestrate the residents’ objections at a protest meeting in the Bloomfield House on February 16.

“Modulating farmland [as in the topography of Gaybrook] is the best for wind turbines because it limits the visual impact,” he said.

The nearest property to a turbine will be 370m, or a quarter of a mile away. It is not known at this stage whether this property on the edge of the Gaybrook desmene is a protestor or a site provider. At the moment, best practice worldwide suggests the optimum distance one could live from a turbine of this size varies from 600m to 2.4km.

This turbine will be 800m (half a mile ) from the R400 Mullingar-Rochfortbridge road, whilst the nearest tower to a road will be160m from the N6 between Rochfortbridge and Milltownpass. Fittingly, Turbine No 8 is to be situated in the townland of Windmill.

The environmental impact statement (EIS ) on the project has data taken from 20 points around the county, and the ornithological study enclosed took 12 months to complete.

One of the residents’ objections at recent meetings has been the phenomenon of shadow flicker on properties when the sun is out and low and shining through the turning blades. According to the EIS, only 10 per cent of the properties will experience any shadow flicker annually and only 11 properties will experience more than 30 hours of this per annum. This does not take into account the landscape or flora.

Noise from the construction of the turbines is projected to be more disruptive than the anticipated sound of the turbines in operation, also a major potential fear of the objectors.

In line with the Kyoto agreement, Ireland is committed to provide 40 per cent of its energy from renewable sources in the next 10 years, up from only 8 per cent in 2005. The forecasted investment in this technology is expected to be in the region of €12 billion over that time. At the moment in Ireland there are 119 wind farms, generating 1,457Mw, and this is projected to increase pro rata to 6,500Mw in line with targets.

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