THE figurehead of the largest horseracing empire in the world has expressed concern about plans for wind farms in Ireland.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is said to be perturbed by proposals for large swathes of turbines in the midlands, where part of his multi-billion euro operation is located.
The sheikh, who is also prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, owns Kildangan Stud in Co Kildare.
The stud's managing director Joe Osborne told the Irish Independent that Sheikh Mohammed was aware of and concerned about the plans, as were many leading international breeders.
Mr Osborne is also chairman of the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders' Association (ITBA), which is among four thoroughbred horse bodies to make a submission to the Department of Environment on proposed revisions to wind energy development guidelines.
The four bodies have warned that investments in the bloodstock industry – which directly employs 14,000 people and is worth around €1bn a year to the Irish economy – could be lost if wind turbines were not kept a safe distance from stud farms and training yards.
"Look at any of the leading horse breeding areas in the world. None of them have wind turbines," he said.
The breeders' groups say they are not opposed to wind farms, but believe they should kept away from thoroughbred operations. "We are not against wind turbines per se, but we believe thoroughbred operations should be factored into any new guidelines," he said.
The chief concerns relate to light flicker, shadow and noise caused by turbines.
"Thoroughbreds are not like regular horses. They are more highly strung. It does make them more susceptible to a visual or a noise-related disturbances," Mr Osborne said.
"Any new guidelines should consider thoroughbred operations as being given special status in consideration of wind farm applications."
The ITBA was joined by the Irish Jockeys Association, the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association and the Association of Irish Racehorse Owners in making submissions to the department.
Officials are examining the revision of wind energy development guidelines, which have not been updated since 2006.
Three separate plans for large-scale farms to serve the UK have been proposed in the midlands. One, from Mainstream Renewable Power, plans to build farms across six counties: Offaly, Laois, Meath, Kildare, Westmeath and Tipperary.
Another by Element Power plans to site wind farms in Meath, Westmeath, Kildare, Laois and Offaly. A third project, planned by Bord na Mona, is seeking to use land in Offaly and Kildare.
Wind farms have power to divide: Pages 14 & 15