Two-month shutdown of Ireland’s largest onshore wind farm due to cable fault

Repair works ongoing at site in Co Mayo, a joint ESB and Bord na Móna venture

Oweninney wind farm, Co Mayo, has been out of action for more than nine weeks. Photograph: David Sleator

The two-month shutdown of Ireland’s largest onshore wind farm due to a cable fault has been described by a local as “like winning the Lotto” for him and his family.

The Oweninny farm at Bellacorick, Co Mayo, which was officially opened in March, has been non-productive for more than nine weeks.

Alan Mullarkey said his family’s quality of life has improved immeasurably since the 60 turbines came to a standstill.

“We are now able to sleep properly. On some days and nights the whistling and banging sounds could be horrendous,” he said.


“There was also a problem with shadow flicker around sunrise and sunset. Now, our peace and tranquillity has been restored, if only temporarily.”

When launched in March, the wind farm project, a joint venture between the ESB and Bord na Móna, was hailed as having the potential to produce enough clean energy to meet the electricity demand of approximately 140,000 homes and businesses. However, the turbines have been motionless due to what has been described as “a grid cable outage”.

In a brief statement on Wednesday, the ESB said: “Oweninny Wind Farm can confirm that a grid cable outage has impacted operations on the site over the past number of weeks.

“Works on repairing the cable are ongoing and we expect the wind farm to resume operations in the coming weeks.”

The ESB’s peat-fired Bellacorick power station, which ceased operation in 2005 and has since been demolished, was based at the 2,400 hectare site that now accommodates phase one and phase two of the Oweninny wind farm project. Phase one, comprising 29 turbines, was completed in 2019 while the 31 turbines in phase two entered commercial operation last year.

Twenty two smaller turbines, erected in the 1990s, are fully operational and have not been affected by the shutdown. Last March a planning application was submitted by Bord na Móna to replace the nest of smaller turbines with 18 larger ones.

Minister for Climate and Energy Eamon Ryan was scheduled to attend the official ceremony last March to mark the completion of the wind farm, but was unable to do so. However, in a statement at the time he described the launch as “a really significant day for Ireland and for Mayo”.

Mr Mullarkey, who lives with his wife, Eileen, and five children in a townland dotted with the new turbines, says he and his neighbours are surprised by the length of the stoppage. “For the turbines to be out for nine weeks already there must be serious issues involved.”

Gerry Coyle, an Erris-based Fine Gael member of Mayo County Council, has questioned the capacity of the cable network to transmit onwards the vast new power that is being generated.

“It’s bizarre when you drive by and see all those turbines standing totally idle for months on end. What’s happening is scandalous,” he said.

“I have been on to the ESB but they keep coming up with all kinds of excuses. We were told initially the turbines would be back on within two weeks but now more than nine weeks have elapsed and the shutdown continues”.

Mr Coyle said there have been more electricity outages in Erris since the wind farm became operational . “Local communities have all the pain with no gain from the [wind farm] development,” he said.