Fine Gael TD for Mayo, Michelle Mulherin, this week called for a mandatory contribution by wind farms to the economic, environmental, or social impact on local communities where power lines and wind turbines are being erected. This contribution or benefit in kind, would be in addition to the rent paid by wind farms to landowners and the rates paid to local authorities.
The Ballina based Deputy said: “As it currently stands, the requirement of a wind farm developer to contribute to a community fund is ad hoc and voluntary and any request by a local authority is not enforceable. We need a national policy through our planning code to inform local authorities. While some developers make contributions, there is no uniformity nationally as to what communities with wind farms might receive and it often just involves a private deal between the wind farm developer and members of the community. There also needs to be transparency as to how the funds are administered, and who can access it from within a community and under what criteria.” She went on to say, “I’m also proposing that the Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan, in conjunction with the Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, examine the possibility of providing cheaper electricity to households within the vicinity of transmission lines and even wind farms. In the case of a wind farm, a community could potentially take a stake in a wind farm and receive an annual income from a particular wind turbine, for example, so that the more electricity generated from a wind farm, the more income the community receives for projects in their area. Such guidelines should of course be developed in consultation with all stakeholders including wind farm and grid developers. It is imperative that we develop these guidelines as a matter of priority. There is huge potential to develop the renewable energy sector in this country, which will not only be of huge benefit to our green economy and provide energy security for the country, but it will drive job creation and encourage investment.” She concluded by saying: “It is generally accepted that the biggest challenge to development in this area is community acceptance. Certain communities carry more of the burden of this infrastructure and this should be recognised by formal national planning guidelines on community gain.”