The European Commission has stopped applying fines to Ireland over environmental breaches at Derrybrien wind farm.
Around €17 million in fines and daily penalties accumulated since the European Court of Justice ruled against Ireland in 2019 in a case that dates back to 2004.
The case is only closed from an EU perspective, however.
The Department of Housing says the wind farm now has the status of an unauthorised development and Galway County Council, as the local planning authority, must oversee the next steps.
ESB, which owns the wind farm through a subsidiary, stopped electricity generation there last year and has said it will begin preparing for the decommissioning and dismantling of the 70 turbines.
The case arose from a massive landslide at the Co Galway wind farm in 2003 which caused huge damage to land, rivers, property and wildlife.
Investigations into the incident revealed that inadequate environmental assessments were carried out to determine the suitability of the site for development.
Although the wind farm is owned by ESB, the State was found culpable for not requiring the developers to carry out appropriate environmental assessment in line with EU law.
The court ruled in 2008 that there must be a retrospective assessment of the project’s suitability but the State did not comply.
Part of the problem was a dispute between the State and ESB over how to resolve the issue.
The commission finally ran out of patience in 2019 and applied a €5 million fine with additional penalties of €15,000 for every day the situation remained unresolved.
In 2021, with fines mounting, ESB agreed to apply to An Bord Pleanála for substitute consent for the development, a form of retrospective permission, but the planning body refused to grant it.
The Department of Housing said yesterday the European Commission had now accepted the State had taken all necessary steps to comply with the court ruling.
It said in a statement: “The exact details in relation to the future of the site in terms of decommissioning and site restoration is a matter for Galway County Council and the owner of the site to address, noting the planning enforcement role of the County Council as the relevant planning authority.”
The Department of Housing said the cut-off point for the daily penalties had been set at February of last year when An Bord Pleanála made its ruling on the substitute consent.