Map on the Bord na Móna Powergen website showing the proposed location of 26 turbines for the Ballivor Wind Farm (full image below).

Council CEO’s report supports Ballivor wind farm plan

Forty-nine submissions were made to An Bord Pleanála ahead of the June 2 deadline in respect of the Bord na Móna Powergen Ltd application for a 26-turbine wind farm at Ballivor Bog, senior planner Cathaldus Harten told members of Westmeath County Council at a special meeting on Wednesday last.

Comments made by the members of the council at that meeting will be appended to the submission of the Westmeath CEO, Pat Gallagher, which has a later deadline, of June 18.

The council’s recommendation is that subject to conditions, permission be granted for the development.

Map on the Bord na Móna Powergen website showing the proposed location of 26 turbines for the Ballivor Wind Farm.

Summarising the Bord na Móna Powergen application, Mr Harten said it is for a 10-year permission for a site planned to have a 30-year operating life.

The height of the turbines to blade tip is 200m and the rotor diameter is 170m. There are also to be meteorological masts, temporary construction compounds, borrow pits, a 110kv electrical substation with associated control buildings and equipment, underground electrical communication cabling, and connection to the existing Mullingar to Corduff 110 KV overhead line.

Mr Harten said the site will also include amenity spaces and pathways.

The site is an area of approximately 1770 hectares and the infrastructure has a footprint of 32 hectares or just less than 1.8% of the entire wind farm site boundary.

He explained that the site is located in the east of Westmeath and the west of Meath, approximately 5km south-east of Delvin, 4km east of Raharney and 4km west of Ballivor. Sixteen of the turbines are to be in Westmeath and 10 in Meath.

Mr Harten said the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) submitted by Bord na Móna Powergen deemed the site “most suitable” for wind energy development with a low potential for environmental effects and close proximity to potential grid connections, and there are no homes within 500m of any of the turbines, the closest being about 815m away.

He said that community gain scheme proposed as part of the application will provide financial assistance to local community and not-for-profit organisations around the area and a ‘Near Neighbour’ scheme will offer reduced energy costs and a contribution towards the completion of energy measures on nearby properties.

Mr Harten told members the council’s environment section is recommending that measures be put in place to counter shadow flicker.

Cllr Louise Heavin asked if the wind farm would have any impact on bog restoration plans that were in place for the site. “If Bord na Móna are going ahead with this, we need to make sure that they’re doing the other works they said they would in terms of bog rehabilitation in the area and that we’d have a gain of biodiversity instead of a loss of biodiversity,” she said.

Cllr John Shaw, revealing that one of the turbines proposed would be only 1km from his home place, said he felt the level of public unrest in relation to turbines has reduced somewhat. However, he was also sceptical of whether the councillors’ views would be taken on board. He was concerned about the upheaval the construction process will bring, and was keen to see the community gain funds released at an early stage in the development.

Meeting cathaoirleach Cllr Aoife Davitt wondered who would oversee the compliance with any mitigation measures that are to be installed to minimise the disruption to residents.

Cllr Andrew Duncan was surprised at the revelation that Bord na Móna Powergen had considered but ruled out using the site for solar power production on the grounds that it would be “more damaging” to the environment, and said what is being proposed is “a monstrous development”.

“It’s a complete industrialisation of a rural landscape,” he said, bemoaning the fact that it is unlikely that anything will stop it going ahead.

Expressing particular misgivings about noise levels, he called for Westmeath County Council to carry out its own baseline study of noise levels in the area.

Cllr Ken Glynn was also opposed to the wind farm: “I certainly wouldn’t be inflicting these monstrosities on top of people,” he said, decrying the fact that the decision-making on such applications – since it is now the responsibility of An Bord Pleanála - had been taken out of the hands of local representatives.

He seconded Cllr Duncan’s call for a baseline study on noise levels: “We need to do our best to help residents. People come first here, we have to certainly protect them.”

Cllr Hazel Smyth spoke of the role peatland plays in carbon sequestration, describing the bogs as “the Amazon Rainforest of Ireland”.

“And for that reason, I do think we need to ensure that Bord na Móna are taking serious measures to protect the peatland that does exist here and ensure that it’s being done in a way that doesn’t result in further carbon emissions being released into the atmosphere, which would be in direct opposition to what this project is all about,” she said.

Cllr Smyth also expressed the hope that as part of the project, Bord na Móna would hire local people and create employment opportunities locally.

Cllr Frank McDermott was in favour of the project: “I have always said I have no difficulty whatsoever with renewable energy so long as it complies with the law,” he said.

Responding, Mr Harten said that there is a habitat management and enhancement plan for the site and a restoration plan for the future, which Westmeath County Council is recommending be attached as a condition to the plan.


Ballivor Bog windfarm concerns raised in group’s submission to An Bord Pleanála