New planning guidelines for wind turbines include setback distance

Noise limit set for future developments

New planning guidelines for wind energy include a “mandatory” setback distance of 500 metres between any turbine and the nearest home and an “absolute” noise limit of 40 decibels for future schemes.

Published yesterday by Minister of State for Planning Jan O’Sullivan, the revised guidelines also specify that there will be no shadow flicker at any home located within 10 rotor diameters of a wind turbine.

Earlier this year, the Minister initiated a “targeted review” of the existing guidelines for wind energy development focusing on the issues of noise, distance and shadow flicker, following numerous complaints that they were inadequate.

International consultants Marshall Day Acoustics, who have done work on winbd farms in Australia and New Zealand, were commissioned to prepare a study on noise from turbines, which Ms O'Sullivan said was a "significant input" into the review.


As a result, the revised guidelines -- now out for public consultation until February 21st next -- set a more stringent absolute noise limit (day and night) of 40 decibels for future wind energy developments, measured outdoors at the nearest home.

The proposed mandatory setback of 500 metres “for amenity considerations” is to be supplemented by a condition attached to all future planning pemissions that there will be no shadow flicker at home within 10 rotor diameters of a turbine.

“If shadow flicker does occur, the wind energy developer or operator will be required to take necessary measures, such as turbine shutdown for the period necessary, to eliminate the shadow flicker,” according to the revised guidelines.

Ms O’ Sullivan said it was her intention that the final guidelines “will have regard to the interests of communities, whilst at the same time recognising the importance of renewable, clean energy for the future of our environment and economy”.

She said the public consultation period would “|ensure everyone has an opportunity to contribute their views before the guidelines are finalised next year” and she looked forward to receiving “evidence-based submissions” from the public.

But the Irish Planning Institute said "these technical guidelines cannot take key strategic issues on the future location of renewable energy projects into account" and it called for a national strategy for wind energy alongside a national landscape strategy.

* The proposed revisions to the wind energy guidelines and the Marshall Day Acoustics noise study are available online at

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor