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One of East Clare’s biggest projects has moved a step closer with elected representatives of the local authority approving a planners report for the development of the Carrownagowan Wind Farm.

Construction of 19 wind turbines with an energy output of between 90 to 110MW, with a 30-year lifespan is currently being assessed by An Bord Plenála. The relevant guidelines by which the wind farm must abide by are sixteen years old as the Draft Revised Wind Energy Development Guidelines have yet to be approved.

Numerous townlands are incorporated into the subject site. It is located on the northern slopes of the Slieve Bernagh mountain. The application site area amounts to almost 750ha of land which consists of conifer plantation, bogland, cutover bogland and improved grasslands. The site is located roughly 2.5km south of Bodyke village and 4km northeast of Broadford, Lough Derg is approximately 4km to the east of the site.

Permission was previously sought for a 7 turbine windfarm development to the southeast of the subject site. This was refused by the Planning Authority and An Bord Pleanála on grounds of impact on visual amenities.

For the current application, an impact assessment has been completed. It is recognised that the proposal would significantly alter the character of the landscape in this area, and if permitted, would be the first such windfarm in East Clare.

Feakle and Bodyke will experience the main visual impact according to the planning authority as the communities will view the full expanse of all of the turbines. The proposal would be visible in views from Lough Derg, at Holy Island and Mountshannon, at scenic points across Lough Derg in Tipperary. The windfarm would not be visible from Killaloe or Ballina.

Public amenity trails throughout the site should be retained, the planning authority noted. It also advised that there may be a further planning gain by the development of additional walking trails within the site.

East Clare councillors have requested that a community fund be created to reflect the “huge impact” on the people of the area.

Speaking at Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Pat Hayes (FF) said Carrownagowan Wind Farm would be “one of the bigger projects that will happen in our side of the county in a long time”. He calculated that the development would be worth more than €50m. Public consultation was a concern for the Cathaoirleach of the Killaloe Municipal District who was disappointed the new wind energy guidelines were not in place.

Walking trails in East Clare could be enhanced by the wind farm, Cllr Tony O’Brien (FF) believed. He admitted that there is annoyance as “people weren’t allowed build two storey houses to raise their families in the area” due to visual impact but a wind farm will proceed.

Efforts had been made to have extensive public consultation but they were disrupted by the pandemic, Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) stated. He queried what process was in place for the removal and replacement of the turbines when their thirty year lifespan expires.

Deputy Mayor of the County Council, Cllr Pat Burke (FG) remarked that it was “by far the biggest development proposed for East Clare” since his election in 2009. “We don’t have a windfarm in any part of East Clare currently, some of us can see the Derrybrien wind farm in Galway and the ones in Templederry and the Silvermines”.

Council officials were praised for a detailed submission by Cllr Alan O’Callaghan (FF). “It is exciting times, there will be a visual impact but also a financial gain to a degree”.

Chief Executive, Pat Dowling acknowledged that it was a significant project. “There is no excuse for not doing extensive consultation. We will have a conversation with promoters to ensure communities receive maximum benefit,” he said.

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