EAST CLARE is facing the possibility of becoming a wind turbine hotspot if multiple developments are given the green light.

Currently six different applications are planned for East Clare. These include Carrownagowan Windfarm in Bodyke (19 turbines), Fahybeg Windfarm near Bridgetown (8 turbines), Lackreagh Windfarm near Kilbane (7 turbines), Knockshanvo Windfarm between Clonlara and Sixmilebridge (9 turbines), Oatfield Windfarm (11 turbines) and Ballycar Windfarm in Meelick (12 turbines).

Information days have been held for the past two Saturdays by the Broadford to Oatfield Windfarm Action Group in Broadford NS. They are preparing objections for An Bord Pleanála to Orsted’s plans for eleven turbines in Oatfield before Monday’s deadline .

Speaking to The Clare Echo, Oatfield resident Jim Fitzgerald was critical of the poor engagement from companies behind the plans which have included holding events in Limerick rather than in the locality. He said the plans are contained in a 4,000 page document which is very difficult for a voluntary group to consume in a limited timeframe. “We’re lay people who are working by day, we have our families, we’ve gone home at night to read this until 12 or 1 at night, this has been in planning since 2015 which is nearly eight years the company have had to put it together, the submission went in on the 22nd of December which has given us eight weeks to try defend our locality”.

He stated, “We’ve been asked if we’re standing against green or renewable energy or communities gaining benefit we’re not, we’re standing against the size and magnitude of this development. We went to the community engagement night for FuturEnergy Ireland which was strangely held in Castleconnell between the hours of 12 and 8 and 12 and 4, two working days which wasn’t helpful for local residents to get to when they were offered every facility locally in terms of GAA facilities, churches, community halls and they still wouldn’t accept it.

“These are going on elevated sites, Sixmilebridge and Newmarket-on-Fergus are nine metres above sea level, the 12 O’Clock Hills is 150 or 160 metres so you put 180 metres on top of this and you are dominating the skyline and what East Clare will look like into the future if these developments go ahead. What a lot of people wouldn’t have seen is these projects, the Orsted one which is for Oatfield and part of Broadford will take eighteen months to construct, within that there is caving works to go in roads, there is a grid connection that will come from Oatfield down to Ballycar that they have allowed five months to construct, you take all of that and I think the figure of 18,000 plus two-way journeys for large and heavy goods vehicles are in their traffic management plan but they have other traffic related studies but spaced throughout the report,” he added.

Signs erected by locals titled ‘no giant wind turbines here’ have been removed and An Garda Síochána are now involved in the matter. Jim said “there was some signs removed in Oatfield recently unfortunately, that was the fourth incident of it, two of the residents felt strongly enough that they had enough and they wanted to go to the Gardaí, they have reported that and in fairness the Gardaí in Sixmilebridge have indicated they are taking this extremely seriously, they have crossed a line in terms of going onto people’s properties and removing signs, I hate to use the word protest but we are trying to create awareness in a peaceful manner. There’s nobody here against green or renewable energy, it is the size and scale of the project”.

Risks of a traffic gridlock primarily at Sixmilebridge have been flagged by the action group. “I know the company has refuted that and have said the turbine delivery route is the one they are focusing on which it is which is coming over the new bridge in Killaloe, down to Clonlara and turning up towards Truagh and we’re not refuting that but they have a spoil management report which indicates landowners will take top soil out and soil off it, there’s addresses as far back as Inagh on it, that all creates traffic congestion and problems.

A spokesperson for Ørsted confirmed that they began surveying in 2016. As it is a strategic infrastructure project, Ørsted was required to prepare a comprehensive planning application for Oatfield Wind Farm to An Bord Pleanála for assessment. This consisted of four parts, planning application documents, drawings, an environmental impact assessment, and a natura impact assessment and was submitted to the planning authority in December with a
non-technical summary document of 70 pages.

No turbine delivery, grid or traffic route associated with the development of Oatfield is proposed to go through or near Sixmilebridge, the company stated.

When asked for their view on the removal of signs from the local campaign group, Ørsted’s spokesperson said, “While we celebrate thesupport of 4 in 5 people who are in favour of wind energy development at a national level, we also respect the rights of the 1 in 25 people who oppose renewable energy it to have their say. Assuming that the local campaign groups were adhering to the relevant planning and development regulations pertaining to the placement of temporary roadside signage, Ørsted is opposed to their removal”.

FuturEnergy who are behind the Knockshanvo Wind Farm defended holding their public consultation in another county. “The venue for the extensive two-day Knockshanvo community clinic held in late November was selected based on its size, facilities, additional on-site services, security and proximity to Clare and Limerick area commuter routes. We thoroughly researched all options and there was no availability for two days, including evenings, with the facilities and space required, at closer venues. Based on the high engagement numbers who participated, we are satisfied that the venue suited many and did not unduly preclude or prevent those with an interest in the project from attending. We offered to provide a taxi for anyone who did not have their own transport. Some community members were unable to attend the event due to other commitments, and we have arranged to meet these individuals where requested. Some of the commentary regarding the community clinics fails to take into consideration the broader engagement work that we have completed for the Knockshanvo project”.

Community engagement for the proposed Knockshanvo Wind Farm began at the end of 2022 with commitments made to write to the local community and all local political representatives in relation to an extensive programme of engagement activities. The project team has issued three newsletters, a detailed final brochure, and provided a dedicated website with comprehensive FAQs and a Virtual Exhibition. Two Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) have been available throughout this period to call, email or meet in person. These CLOs have knocked on doors locally to discuss the project on at least four separate occasions and met 75% of homeowners within 2km of the site.

A spokesperson for FuturEnergy said there was “a number of factors” which influenced the dimensions of their turbines which will have a tip height range between 179 metres and 185 metres. “The option for a potential maximum height of 185 metres facilitates fewer turbines with better energy output compared with a larger number of smaller turbines. This also allows energy to be produced at lower costs to consumers and supports an affordable transition to clean energy”. They expect

When asked what impact the development would have on future planning applications for housing in the locality, the spokesperson stated, “The current Wind Energy Development Guidelines recommend a housing setback of 500 metres for turbines. The proposed Knockshanvo project has a property setback of 750 metres. However, this does not prevent anyone from applying for planning permission to build a property within that zone should the project receive planning permission”.

FuturEnergy plan to make their application in the first quarter of this year and if permission is granted they expect to commence construction in 2028. Delivery of the turbine components would come from Foynes via Limerick City and the R465 to the site entrance.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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