Ireland's wind farm guidelines dont reflect reality and are now lagging behind on where the industry is at.
The government have delayed implementing guidelines on wind farm developments, because a European Court of Justice ruling makes full disclosure and public consultation mandatory. The ECJ ruled against the Belgian state of Wallonia because it deployed a wind energy policy without proper public consultation.
Guidelines on wind farms are needed to enact rules on set-back distance from people's homes, in order to minimise intrusion from noise and shadow flicker. The current guidelines date from 2006 when turbines were on average 54m tall. Turbines being built today can be as high as 185m.
Ireland published new draft guidelines in 2013. These called for a minimum 500m setback distance, noise limits and the elimination of shadow flicker. 7,500 public submissions were received, delaying their final publication. When Alan Kelly became Minister in 2014 he promised new guidelines with a 1km minimum set-back distance, but these never materialised either.
Campaigners want to see what they call the 10x rule by which a turbine must be a minimum of 10 times its height from the nearest dwelling. So a 185m turbine would be sited at least 1.85km from the nearest home. Such limitations would restrict potential locations for wind farms in Ireland and would be fiercely opposed by developers, who are already lobbying hard to make the guidelines less stringent.
Cork Families Win Case
In the first case of its kind in Ireland, a number of Cork families have won in the High Court. They sued turbine manufacturer Enercon over noise from a nearby wind farm. They said that since the wind farm began operating in 2011 they had been forced to leave their homes. The case could open a Pandora's Box of litigation as some wind farms have already been built close to residences while others are planned.
A spokesperson for Wind Aware Ireland said: "The legal implications for the wind industry are significant. The use of inadequate and out-dated planning guidelines may come back to haunt the industry, planning authorities and the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment (DCCAE).”
The case will return to the High Court in 2017 to consider damages.