Bord na Móna’s renewable energy partnership, Bord na Móna Powergen, is facing a challenge to its plans for a flagship 26-turbine wind farm in Cos Meath and Westmeath. The challenge, if successful, could be applied to all Bord na Móna bogs and derail the company’s plans for a timely transition from a “brown” energy to becoming a “green” energy supplier.
Bord Pleanála’s strategic infrastructure division is currently considering a planning application for the Ballivor wind farm which is to be constructed on bogs formerly used for peat harvesting at Ballivor, Bracklin, Carranstown, Lisclogher and Lisclogher West in Cos Meath and Westmeath. Ten of the turbines would be located in Co Meath, with 16 in Co Westmeath.
The wind farm aims to generate up to 169MW of electricity – or enough power for more than 100,000 homes. Blade heights would reach 200m – more than 1½ times the height of Dublin’s Spire and the rotation span of the blades would be about 170m.
According to the project website Ballivor Wind farm is a key part of Bord na Móna’s plans to become a supplier of green, sustainable energy “to assist with Ireland’s commitment to 80 per cent renewable electricity by 2030″.
However, Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE), which has been taking High Court cases against commercial peat harvesting since 2010, has told Bord Pleanála that “substitute consent” is required by Irish and European law before any new development on the Ballivor bogs can take place.
Substitute consent is a process through which a developer is required to make good, insofar as possible, environmental damage caused by legacy operations, such as peat harvesting, which did not have an environmental impact assessment [EIA]. The process requires a new, retrospective environmental impact assessment report and planning consent.
FIE said it supported the principle of the development of wind and solar renewable energy on cutover peatlands, “if done in a manner which is consistent with the full range of planning and environmental considerations”.
But FIE said a High Court judgment handed down by Mr Justice Garrett Simons in April 2022 “made it crystal clear that a development which required an EIA but never had one – as is the case with all of Bord na Móna’s bogs – must be regularised by substitute consent before any further development takes place”.
“This would ensure that the historic operator – Bord na Móna – would be responsible for the rehabilitation”, FIE said.
Mr Lowes said: “While we recognise the excellent work Bord na Móna is doing in rewetting other areas of extracted peatland, in this case the plan does not address the damage done or even include a baseline survey of the current ongoing emissions.”
Bord na Móna told The Irish Times it had not been given a copy of the challenge by Bord Pleanála “and therefore is not in a position to comment on matters being dealt with under the planning process”.
It said: “In line with the consenting process, Bord Pleanála will consider all third party submissions and may ask Bord na Móna to respond to some or all of those submissions. Bord na Móna will review and respond to the third party submissions if directed by ABP.”