Calls for clarity on wind farm bid near Moyvoughley, Drumraney and Ballymore

Residents of Moyvoughley in South Westmeath have this week voiced concerns about a possible windfarm development in the area, and have called for more details to be issued on the plans.

A representative of Cork-based company Enerco Energy told the Westmeath Independent it had identified "a potential site for approximately 10 wind turbines" in the Ballynacorra area, located between Moyvoughley and Drumraney.

However, locals said a second company has been in touch with landowners, in addition to Enerco, and it's their understanding that windfarm projects could result up in a combined total of 21 or 22 turbines being proposed across three sections of land in the same general vicinity. Local residents also said it's their understanding that the height of some of the proposed wind turbines could reach up to 180 metres. An Enerco Energy spokesperson said the potential height of the turbines had not yet been determined.

"As we are at the early stages of the project, we are unable to give accurate detail on the actual tip height of the proposed turbines," said Aidan Stakelum of Enerco Energy.

"We are currently carrying out site investigation works to confirm that the site is suitable for such a development."

A concerned Moyvoughley resident, Peter Cunningham, said he was approached by Enerco in relation to a local development this month, after being approached by a different company five or six months ago.

Mr Cunningham said it's his understanding that up to 21 or 22 turbines are being considered for land on both sides of the Dungolman River, between Drumraney and Moyvoughley.

He said the erection of turbines in local townlands and areas such as Lissanode, Baskin, Umma More, Toorbeg and Ballycloghduff had been discussed.

"We happen to be right in the centre of this, and we don't know where we stand. The original plan was for 21 or 22 turbines... Nothing has come up since to tell me that's not the plan.

"As far as we're concerned there are two companies actively canvassing in the area for rights to put up turbines," he said.

He added that some local landowners, whose land was not deemed suitable for a wind turbine, had been asked about the possibility of having solar panels installed on their land instead.

Mr Stakelum, of Enerco Energy, told the Westmeath Independent that the company intended to outline its plans locally in the near future.

"We hope to be in a position to introduce the proposal to the local community shortly," he said in an email.

In early March, a wind monitoring mast, or met mast, was erected in Ballynacorra to help assess its suitability for wind energy development. A few days later the mast sustained damage, the circumstances of which are unclear.

Sergeant Andrew Haran of Athlone Garda Station confirmed that Gardai had received a report of approximately €10,000 worth of damage being caused to a mast in Ballynacorra between March 13 and 14.

When asked about the damage to the mast, Mr Stakelum, of Enerco, said this was "being investigated further."

Discussing the possibility of one or more windfarm developments in the area, Cllr McCormack said it had long been his view that large wind turbines should not be erected close to houses or farmland.

"From day one I've been against them and all for offshore wind (turbines), which make far more sense in terms of energy development, but where it doesn't make sense is that it costs the wind companies more to put them there," he said.

Cllr McCormack said there was an active group of locals who were trying to raise awareness of the windfarm proposals, but that they were currently constrained in their activities by the Level 5 public health restrictions which meant that community meetings, for example, could not be held.

"There's a lot of locals who are very concerned, as you can imagine. There are some people who have lived there all their lives and others who have, maybe in the last five years, built a house in that area and now suddenly they're not sure of the future," he said.

Cllr Tom Farrell said the wind monitoring mast had "frightened a lot of people" when it was put up in the area recently.

He encouraged anyone who was approached about the possibility of windfarm development on their land to seek independent advice on it.

"I'd advise them not to sign any papers until they know the full implications of what they're doing because it is a major, major step.

"In fairness, some farmers have to look at viability, and what way it goes, but there are major implications as well for an area that has windfarms," he said.