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Signing of Energy Memorandum with UK paves way for up to 2,300 Wind Turbines in Midlands

category national | environment | news report author Tuesday January 29, 2013 23:10author by T Report this post to the editors

Is this the solution to the energy crisis?

Last Thurs 24th Jan 2013, the Irish and British governments agreed on a memorandum of understanding for energy trading between Ireland and the UK. This will pave the way for the export of Wind Energy to the UK. This would likely make use of the electric interconnector completed last year between the UK and Ireland although it may need additional cables.

The wind resource in Ireland is probably greater than what the Irish electrical grid can cope with and hence the idea is that the surplus wind energy can be exported to the UK which has a far larger electrical demand than here and could probably take every watt exported.

Unfortunately it seems that there is a bit more to this though the official green good news because apparently there are plans by a number of companies to erect up to 2,300 wind turbines in the Midlands of Ireland. Is blighting our landscape for the UK the way to solve the energy problem?

There was a followup article in the Irish Times on Mon 28th Jan titled: "Wind farms 'an Irish solution to British problem' by Frank McDonald and they quoted Andrew Duncan, spokesman for the Lakelands Wind Information Group in Co Westmeath who said: “It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem - politically, they don’t want turbines in the British countryside.”

It seems that opposition has been growing in the UK over the erection of large wind turbines and the UK was finding it hard to meet its own targets. This is reasonably understandable given that they population density is about 8 times higher in the UK whilst in Ireland there have been few objections and so far there are approximately 1,000 wind turbines for a total capacity of approximately 2000 MW. However last summer (2012) a new group urging responsible engagement with Wind Energy was formed representing community groups in 13 counties from Donegal to Wexford. Their website is: http://www.crewe-ireland.org/

From the British perspective having a link to Ireland is ideal because the wind is a bit stronger and more frequent here and the landscape is less populated and the level of objections is really quite low. Hence the interest in pouring money into huge projects here and exporting the power. Over the past 10 to 20 years, the average physical size and generating capacity of wind turbines has been increasing and a typical turbine is rated at about 2.5 MW at full capacity for a structure that is 185 metres (or ~600 ft) high. However it is not exactly clear why the Midlands were picked over the coastal areas as wind speeds would be a bit less although it is likely this may relate to land prices or rental.

One of the companies involved in the midlands scheme is Element Power.

So on face value this all seems like a great thing. More green energy is going to be generated as a number of coal plants in the UK reach the end of their lives and Ireland gets to export power and potentially earns some money and creates some jobs. So what's the problem?

The problem needs to be put in context. One of the major global problems relates to energy use and generating power from non-polluting and sustainable resources is the goal. But if we have to completely plaster the landscape in renewable "devices" then surely we have just created another problem. And if we expect energy consumption to continue to grow -which is expected -then can there ever be enough renewable energy?

Indeed do the Irish people want to surrender their landscape to solve a British problem? The obvious answer would be the central and highest priority goal of every country would be to reduce energy consumption. So far example instead of say everyone having an electric car which would use a lot of energy, if instead public transport was greatly increased -say tripled or quadrupled and made electric, it would still require vastly less electric power than so many personnel transport devices -i.e cars. But the problem with this is that car manufacturers don't get to continue business as usual -which is building (slightly different) cars. It challenges the system.

The second obvious thing is that we would have proper planning guidelines and procedures and right to appeal by local citizens where these wind turbines will be sited. Given the recent madness and reckless building that occurred during the property boom, it is a certainty that the smell of money changing hands will run roughshod over peoples rights and concerns. Besides we can expect the usual gushing PR campaigns about how good all of this is and there will be no real effort to examine this properly.

There was also an earlier article back on Oct 8th 2012 by Frank McDonald in the Irish Times titled: Wind energy industry set for massive expansion
http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2012/1008/1....html


There was even earlier coverage of this proposal more than 18 months ago back in 18th June 2011 in the Guardian in an article titled: UK urges Ireland to build windfarms on west coast It can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/18/ireland-wind-power-grid

For those interested the official press release on this can be found at:
http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2013/01/energy-tr...at=12
And in summary form:
http://www.merrionstreet.ie/index.php/2013/01/energy-tr...cat=3

For information on the existing UK-Eire Electrical Interconnector see:
http://www.eirgrid.com/eastwest/
http://www.eirgridprojects.com/projects/east-westinterc...vity/
and
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/East%E2%80%93West_Intercon...ector

author by Mike de Jong - Sliabh Ban Community Grouppublication date Tue Jan 29, 2013 23:58Report this post to the editors

Most right mined thinking people are not opposed to renewable energy. The reason why wind farms in Ireland receive hundreds of objections at the planning stage is because they are being built far to close to peoples homes. There are no laws in Ireland as to how close a wind turbine can be to a family home and most planning authorities set a 500 metre minimum distance. However, this is regularly disregarded, with the most concerning situation being in County Donegal which has passed a County Council motion that there are no minimum distances for turbines to be from houses.

Wind turbines are getting taller and it is unfair for someone to have a 185 metre tall structure imposed on them. There are no schemes in Ireland to compensate financially the passive victims of these developments. Very often families just put up with the noise and visual pollution of the turbines because they do not want to upset their neighbour who is making up to 20,000 euros per year per turbine.

The British Medical Journal, one of the top three medical journals in the world, had an editorial in April last year stating that there were real mental health concerns because of noise, for those people who live near wind turbines. Our government led the world in protecting its citizens from passive smoking. Can they not show leadership by protecting the health and residential amenity of those citizens who are having wind turbines imposed on their environments?

Willie Penrose’s Environment and Public Health (Wind Turbines) Bill, which was submitted to the Dáil last year is designed to protect the welfare of those who live near wind turbines. It sets minimum distances for wind turbines to be from homes according to the hieght of each turbine. This legislation needs to be in place before our government gives the go-ahead for any future wind energy schemes.

author by Tpublication date Wed Jan 30, 2013 00:10Report this post to the editors

And it seemed this was the initial issue up in Mayo over the Shell To Sea issue where the gas pipeline direct from the wellhead was going directly beside people's home and then of course once they looked into the whole thing more they realized the government had given the gas away for free and we would get nothing for it.

And so it is interesting the same set of circumstances arise here. Disregard for people and theft of resources -in this case the wind resource.

It is likely that the tax payer will pay for the feed-in tariffs to cover the capital investment of these wind turbines and all the profit will go to ....a few private individuals -i.e the owners and shareholders.

It will be interesting to see how much free money the government is planning to give away for these deals.

author by W. Finnertypublication date Wed Jan 30, 2013 02:55Report this post to the editors

Introducing the Aarhus Convention (the excerpts immediately below have come from the United Nations texts on this subject):

"It links environmental rights and human rights";

"It establishes that sustainable development can be achieved only through the involvement of all stakeholders";

"It links government accountability and environmental protection";

"It acknowledges that we owe an obligation to future generations";

"The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments ."

Following an unexplained 14 year (or so) delay, believed to be unconstitutional and consequently unlawful, the Republic of Ireland eventually ratified the United Nations Aarhus Convention Agreement June 20th 2012, without telling the general public as far as I know, as can be seen at:
http://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREAT...ng=en

Related Link:
"United Nations Aarhus Convention Agreement, Human Rights Ireland, William Finnerty":
http://tinyurl.com/ao2pwc2

author by fredpublication date Thu Jan 31, 2013 05:38Report this post to the editors

do we get all the electricity or will it just be sent to Britain?

I'm all for clean renewable energy and taking advantage of our natural wind / wave resources, but I'm not all for being a cheap colonial floating power generation eyesore for Britain.

We got a rather vague letter in the mail recently, talking about changes to the eirgrid network and the advantages of this for us all. Y'know, just the kind of letter you get before the government screws you yet again.

I wonder are they linked?

author by Rational Ecologistpublication date Tue Feb 05, 2013 13:20Report this post to the editors

This development needs to be seriously looked at. There is no way that it should be permitted, and certainly not if the energy is for export. We are not energy independent, so why would we export the energy produced, and that is even before the human and environmental cost.
Renewables are not free energy; these turbines require massive energy and materials input to manufacture.
Are the companies involved going to avail of subsidies?
Is this merely increasing the energy pool or replacing carbon-intensive generation?

author by J.Connpublication date Tue Feb 05, 2013 17:21Report this post to the editors

Energy can not be easily store. Therefore when it is produced it needs to be used immediaately. If we build a lot of wind farms then when there is strong winds there may be too much energy being created. It will be then that the energy will be exported. Otherwise it would simply be wasted. This interconnector makes wind power more sustainable and will help Ireland gain Energy independence.

author by Ratioanl Ecologist.publication date Fri Feb 08, 2013 16:43Report this post to the editors

The energy produced in this development is for export, and not just when there is a surplus. Energy can be stored via pumped hydro or large-battery storage.

author by Tpublication date Tue Feb 12, 2013 22:00Report this post to the editors

PrimeTime is covering this now.

Over 1,100 turbines are planned for the Midlands and combined with off-shore power will generate 5,000 MW.

The turbines will be 180 meters tall. It seems the community are be roughshod over as usual.

One couple have the turbines just 80 meters from their home and it affects their sleep.

Guidelines input close this Friday.

Existing guidelines are based on 1997 guidelines when turbines were only 40 meters high, not 180m

author by Tpublication date Tue Feb 12, 2013 22:12Report this post to the editors

Pat Rabbit is saying it will bring jobs etc. He is justifying step on people's rights for the sake of those who will profit.

Pat Kenny is asking what we will get. Again Rabbit is saying jobs and a new industry. Will there be a royalty? Rabbit dodges the question.

Rabbit is now saying they can put the turbines on the cut-away bogs -this pretends it gets over the siting issue. People can live very near these.

Yvonne Cronin -from the community is asking for proper guidelines that are enforced. There are different guidelines in each county and they are not enforceable. She says distance should be dictated by the size of the turbine, -the bigger the further.

She has 29 turbines within 840 meters of her home in a rural area. The valuation of her home dropped by 80% due to the three wind farms planned around her home.

Spokesperson for Irish Wind Energy Association is doing plug for the industry by promising jobs -where did we hear that before. He is quoting reports and research that there is absolutely nothing to worry about and having a turbine beside you has no ill health. ....but getting no sleep is no fun. He is saying effectively other people's rights have been stepped on and claims it is fine so whats the problem?

Note: The number of wind turbines is in excess of 1100 which is the total for Ireland so far.

Rabbit is saying the community has rights and will get benefits. This is just empty talk with baseless statements.

Remember this PrimeTime programme (9:30pm Tues 12th Feb 2013) can be caught on RTE RealPlayer during the next 2 weeks

Eddie O'Connor CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power (and one of the main players in the Irish Wind Energy scene) is saying how brilliant it all is and how wealthy we all will be. But it is people like him who will get the profits with 1% of the revenue (his quote) given to communities. But the subsidies from the government will contribute far more than 1% of the income for this to pay for the rates.

O'Connor says the Midland communities can all build swimming pools with the money. But a local man is saying that is complete rubbish.

**** Intiial consultation closes this Friday *****

The existing guidelines are only being selectively used. Guidelines are being ignored particularly ones that objectives use to object. So this guideline issue is a farce. Rabbit steps in and says the guidelines should be enforced. Its like a good cop - bad cop routine watching him and the industry representatives.

Rabbit says any application larger than 25 turbines has to go to Bord Pleanala -so thats why so many wind farms only have 23 turbines are less !

So people are expected to take on these legal costs themselves -whilst we are in economic recession/depression

Note: Eddie O'Connor is a major player and thus beneficiary of the plan. Apparently the scale of the plan is up to €12.5 billion. But again who gets the money and whose rights are stood on?

Wind Energy is fine and well but it can be just imposed on people and then for a tiny few to get all the gains and the rest the problems.


Finally Richard Tol former head of the ERSI has written a piece about it here called Bogtec followed by comments and he sees nothing in it for Ireland but plenty for the UK
http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2013/01/25/bogtec/

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