Jobs claim by wind farm lobby dismissed

CLAIMS BY wind energy promoters that their projects would create thousands of jobs in Ireland have been hotly disputed by anti…

CLAIMS BY wind energy promoters that their projects would create thousands of jobs in Ireland have been hotly disputed by anti-wind farm campaigners, who say they have seen “no evidence” of local employment.

“What we have seen is the misery and suffering they have caused local families who not only have to endure the noise and shadow flicker the wind turbines produce, but now face the realisation that their family homes are worth up to 80 per cent less than their market value,” said Yvonne Cronin, spokeswoman for Communities for Responsible Engagement with Wind Energy (Crewe) which was founded last June.

“The fact that the UK is no longer willing to allow large-scale onshore wind farm development is also significant.”

Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Birmingham last week, Britain’s environment secretary, Owen Paterson, said wind farms had “significant impacts on the rural economy and the rural environment, all of which weren’t intended when these things were thought up”.


Crewe is supporting Labour Senator John Kelly’s Wind Turbines Bill, which would lay down minimum separation distances between wind farms and people’s homes – on average three times further away than the “guideline” of 500m, or even closer with a landowner’s consent.

Ms Cronin cited the example of a couple in Co Wexford who discovered that one of the turbines of a wind farm would be just 365m from their home. When they complained to Wexford County Council that this was in breach of the guidelines, the council simply gave the developers permission to retain it.

Feeling bullied by officialdom and intimidated by local supporters of the project, the couple found it impossible to take a High Court action because of the prohibitive cost involved. They would sell out if they could.

The same goes for pylons.Michael Prendergast of Barna, Co Galway, was shocked to find a pylon carrying a 110kv power line to Connemara was being erected less than 50m from his house – and even more surprised to discover that ESB International could locate anywhere it liked.

Under the 2001 Planning Regulations, pylons may be moved up to 40m from the positions indicated in the planning application, and this is deemed to be “exempted development”. In 2010, Heaslips cut the valuation of Mr Prendergast’s house by €100,000 because the pylon had detracted from its setting.

Crewe took heart from the success last May of Dublin-based chemical engineer Pat Swords in taking a case under the 1998 Aarhus Convention – which underwrites public involvement in environmental decision-making – against the EU over its adoption of a 20 per cent target for all renewable energy by 2020.

“Electricity costs are soaring to implement these dysfunctional policies, which have bypassed proper and legally required technical, economic and environmental assessments,” said Mr Swords, adding that the landscape was being “scarred” by thousands of wind turbines and people were “suffering health impacts” from noise.

The Aarhus Convention compliance committee of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) found in his favour, saying the EU was in breach of the convention in setting the renewables target “without taking account of the fact that citizens should have been consulted, in accordance with rules laid down by the convention”.

Although this ruling has yet to be confirmed by a ministerial meeting of UNECE, it could mean that EU citizens – including citizens of this State – which finally ratified the Aarhus Convention last June, would be eligible to apply for compensation from their governments over national renewable energy plans drafted to implement the EU target.

Senator Kelly, who is described as “principly anti-wind” in an Irish Wind Energy Association briefing paper, said it seemed that wind energy had become “an unstoppable train” and he was “surprised that the Government doesn’t stand back and look at the issues being raised by ordinary people”.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

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