A local TD has called for planning permission on all windfarm applications to be halted until the guidelines currently being reviewed in the Dáil are updated this autumn.
Deputy Willie Penrose has drafted a comprehensive bill on the issue - the Environment and Public Health (Wind Turbines ) Bill 2012 - which deals with many of the issues that have arisen in relation to those developments, and is awaiting a second stage discussion in the Dáil.
He has called upon the Government to impose a full moratorium on all future planning applications.
As it stands in Ireland, there are no laws governing the distance between newly installed wind turbines and existing dwellings, apart from 2006 guidelines which recommend a separation of 500m, and Deputy Penrose believes these should be brought in line with public opinion.
“The guidelines are totally outdated and are adapted to situations where the average height of turbines was only 54 metres, which pales into insignificance when compared with some of the proposals to erect turbines about 184 metres high across the Midlands,” said the Ballinacarrigy legislator.
“Likewise, the 2006 guidelines are totally outdated in relation to noise levels and shadow flickering, and of course have a one-size-fits-all approach in relation to setbacks. My own bill deals comprehensively with these issues, and has attracted the ire and deep disapproval of the Irish Wind Development Association,” said Deputy Penrose, who has written to the Department of Energy demanding a moratotium.
He has also asked the Government (see Mullingar Advertiser, February 15 ) to carry out an environmental impact assessment for the plans for onshore wind farm, similar to those carried out in 2011 for offshore wind energy, and that again, nothing happens until this process is finalised.
He would also like to see all of the guidelines be placed on a statutory footing, and that in Westmeath, the electorate utilise the appropriate period up to April 2013 to make submissions to the draft County Development Plan which is now on display.
Deputy Penrose wants the State focus on empty peat bogs for such developments.
“There are approximately 200,000 acres of cutaway bog in the ownership of Bord na Móna across the country, and they also have available to them the technological expertise to site these windfarms in such isolated areas, well removed from population bases, as is already clear by their development taking place in Mount Lucas [Co Offaly]. This would deal with a lot of the proposals to produce wind energy across the Midlands, and not impinge or affect people who wish to enjoy the peace and comfort of their homes, which they have put together with large mortgages, which they are now trying to repay.”