AN environmental and planning expert told more than 350 people in a packed community hall in Killygordon on Monday night he was “confident” they could halt plans to build Ireland’s largest wind farm in the area.
However, Mr Peter Crossan, also warned those present that this could cost anything between €10,000 to €50,000 and that the local community would have to pay for it.
He was speaking at the second such meeting since plans were formally lodged with An Bord Pleanala (ABP) two weeks ago by Planree Ltd who hope to build the Carrickaduff Wind Farm.
If it goes ahead, the development will include 49 turbines, some with a maximum height of 500 feet, stretching from the iconic Barnesmore Gap, along the Tyrone border, to near Castlefin.
The meeting, organised by the Finn Valley Wind Action (FVWA) group, was held in the Parochial Hall in the village of Crossroads. A spokesperson for the group dismissed reports circulating in the national media that millionaire popstars, Mick Hucknall and Chris DeMargary, are backing them financially.
Mr Crossan is credited with winning the fight against the proposed Straboy Windfarm outside Glenties.
He has been hired by FVWA and spoke to the Donegal News at length after the meeting.
When asked if the ‘ordinary people’ of the area could take on the might of the wind energy industry, he replied: “They can, and I would be confident that they can but, unfortunately, it will require a lot of resources in that we are in a situation where we have to bring experts in and most of them will have to come from overseas to be here to represent the people.”
Mr Crossan said he would prefer if the matter went to a full oral hearing in order to “open things out and ventilate them properly.”
“Initially, we will be looking for preliminary reports from them (committee) to submit to An Bord Pleanala at the end of March. But, following on from that, we hope that the board will convene an oral hearing and these people (experts) will have to be physically present to go through the full analysis of the project and highlight where the flaws are and the impact it will have on the local people.”
The environmentalist, and part-time farmer from County Cavan, laughed off accusations that he was a serial wind farm objector who was “in it for the money.”
“I wish I was here for the big money. I’ve been dealing with wind farms for about 17 years now and I know Donegal very well. I have done previous wind farms here – the last one I did was the Straboy development in Glenties and I am familiar with the territory. It is a very complex area (wind energy) and a lot of things are against you – policy is against you. But at the end of the day, it really is a factual process when it comes down to planning and if you can convince people of the importance of that, then that’s when you start to win.”
He added that the huge financial cost would be a “small price to pay” for such a large community to stop wind farms as they have a major impact on the local environment.
“In this particular case, we are talking about destroying a lot of peat bogs, which are a natural carbon sink, it’s also a naturally occurring habitat for many rare and endangered species. And the charm of Donegal is in its landscape and the beauty of that. This development is totally alien to a landscape like this.”
When it was put to Mr Crossan that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has so far found no proof of any health effects from wind turbines, he warned the human cost of such equipment has yet to be discovered.
“Well, the WHO tends to be pretty slow at picking up on things. What you have to remember here is that there is a very powerful lobby behind this industry. So, there is actually no one doing proper research into the scientific research required to prove what the impacts actually are.
But, there are numerous ordinary people out there who are living close to these, where their families are affected by noise and issues such as sleep disturbances. I think they are the evidence on the ground and the scientific proof will come later, maybe in ten years time, and that’s what I am being told by the various world experts in this area in health. At the moment, we know there is an impact on health and peoples’ ability to sleep and we have got to pay attention to that.
Other than that, they have a major environmental impact on the local environment.”
He also disagrees with claims that objectors to windfarms are ‘anti-progress’ and that they have to be located somewhere.
“If the question is ‘do they (windfarms) have to go somewhere’, I might have possibly agreed with that ten years ago – that we might put 500 to 1,000 megawatts of wind power on the national grid, but that would have been the limit.
“Now, there are over 2,000 MW and we’re talking about putting another 2,000 MW on. The reality is that installed wind capacity just isn’t providing electricity. Some days, if you check the Eirgrid website, you’ll see as little as five or ten MWs going on to the grid from wind, when actually, we have installed over 2,000 MW. So, from the point of view of them working or being of value or actually displacing fossil fuel generated power on the grid, unfortunately, that just does not happen,” he concluded.
FVWA secretary, Ms Marie Scanlon, said if the development went ahead, her children would grow up without having the pleasure of an uninterrupted view of Barnesmore Gap because of the giant turbines.
“Apart from the obvious health risks, these huge turbines will destroy our beautiful landscape forever. I want my children to enjoy places like Barnes while they are growing up. Barnes is as iconic as Errigal and should be afforded the same protection.
“Windfarms bring with them visual impacts on the landscape and noise and flicker as well a a threat to public health. Some people say there are no proven health affects, but there is a lot of concern out there. There is also the threat to wildlife – the list is endless.
“We are delighted with the turnout tonight and I am more than confident that we can raise the initial €10,000 to €15,000 due to the huge amount of support you see here.”
Submissions or objections must be lodged with ABP, to arrive no later than 5:30 pm on Friday, March 27.
The developers estimate the total electricity generating output from the proposed Carrickaduff Windfarm would be 105 MW, making it Ireland’s largest onshore wind farm.
The current largest wind farm in the country, Meentycat, between Drumkeen and Stranorlar, generates 84 MW.
If the wind farm goes ahead, the developers claim the local community would benefit from a special fund worth €3 million over the 25 year lifespan of the turbines.
Further details on the project can be viewed at www.carrickaduffwindfarm.com
Read our full, indepth interview with Mr Crossan, see this Friday’s print edition of the Donegal News or subscribe to our digital edition.
DECLAN BONNER will look to collect the first piece of silverware from his second tenure in charge of Donegal.