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Wind energy guidelines cut-off date

Wednesday, 13th February, 2013 3:40pm

Story by Tom Kelly
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Wind energy guidelines cut-off date

Anyone concerned about the construction of wind turbines in Westmeath should contact the Department of Environment, according to a local activist.

The department is currently updating its wind energy planning guidelines concerning noise, including separation distance, and shadow flicker. The deadline for submissions is February 15.

Andrew Duncan, PRO of the Lakeland Windfarm Information Group, says it's vital that as many people as possible write to the department to make their concerns known, as he fears the companies involved in the proposed windfarms, Element and Mainstream, will try and get their planning applications through before the guidelines are altered.

"Everyone who has a concern should submit. They only have a short window of opportunity to make a submission. It's based on shadow flicker, noise, and set-back distances, but if they have any concerns they should submit them, because volume is probably needed to show the level of interest that's there.

"We will have a template on our website for people to download and offer any advice we can give them."

At present, the guidelines state that wind turbines have to be at least 500 metres from the nearest house, but Mr Duncan says these guidelines were set when the average height of wind turbines in Ireland was 50-60 metres.

"The turbines that Mainstream and Element propose to build in Westmeath will be three times the height, they will be 180 metres. You are talking three times the size of Mullingar cathedral but you are also talking about blade diameters that are something like the size of a football pitch each.

"In the English countryside at the minute, there are 2386 turbines, the vast majority of those are between 50 to 100 metres tall. We are talking about putting in two and a half thousand 180-metre ones in the midlands."

An auctioneer by profession, Mr Duncan disputes Mainstream chief executive Eddie O'Connor's claim that the construction of windfarms in Westmeath and neighbouring counties will increase property prices due to an increase in demand from workers. He also rejects Mr O'Connor's claims that if Mainstream and Element's plans to construct windfarms to supply electricity to the UK energy market come to fruition between 30,000 and 40,000 jobs could be created in the midlands.

Mr Duncan says that in recent weeks the campaign against the windfarm plans has gathered momentum.

"The one issue I keep going back to is that people have no idea of the scale of these things. They are way bigger than The Spire in Dublin and people keep saying that this is a good example but it's not because The Spire is only a narrow little thing. They are monsters."

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