An East Galway TD has called on the ESB to “carefully assess” the impact of the Derrybrien Windfarm on flooding in South Galway as part of a new environmental assessment the Government is required to carry out.
The obligation to carry out a retrospective environmental impact assessment on the South Galway windfarm arises from a judgement this week from the EU Court of Justice.
The Government faces a €5 million fine from the European Court of Justice for infringements on EU law during the construction of a 70-turbine wind farm at Derrybrien. The State risks being fined €15,000 per day until an environmental impact assessment is carried out on the south County Galway facility.
Following the EU judgement, officials from both the Department of Housing, and the Department of Communications, have held a number of meetings with the ESB and the owners/operators of the Derrybrien Windfarm, and worked with them in anticipation of the recent judgement.
According to Fine Gael Galway East TD, Ciaran Cannon, the ESB agreed with the two Government departments, in March this year, to submit the Derrybrien Windfarm to An Bord Pleanála for a formal ‘substitute consent’ application as soon as possible. This is in essence a retrospective assessment of the environmental impact of the windfarm.
This agreement was notified to the CJEU and to the Commission in advance of the hearing for the case in April. It is understood that the ESB is currently preparing this application as a priority.
Dep Cannon, who is also the Minister of State with special responsibility for the Diaspora and International Development, said he believed the design of the windfarm drainage network, which is located in the Sliabh Aughty mountain range, is “leading to the rapid run-off of rainwater into the South Galway lowlands”, thus exacerbating an “already problematic flooding” issue. “When water comes down the mountains at pace, the natural flood systems in the lowlands are incapable of coping,” he said.
The ESB may be ready to submit an application to An Bord Pleanala in April of 2020 and this planning process will likely take at least six to nine months to complete. Minister Cannon said he will also advise the ESB to engage directly with the consultants designing the South Galway Flood Relief Scheme.