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Wind firms say delays in planning make target impossible

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Wind power firms are warning that delays in the planning process will make it impossible for the country to meet its climate change commitment to provide 70pc of electricity from green energy by 2030.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) says 70 to 80 more onshore wind farms are needed to meet the target but the current system will only deliver about 25.

The target is key to Ireland's efforts to cut carbon emissions in line with national policy and international obligations.

Wind farms take eight to 12 years to develop, and up to 20 years in some cases. The IWEA says a "broken" planning system adds to the hold-ups.

It says it can take two to three years to prepare a planning application, one to two years for a planning decision, and three years to get an offer to connect to the national grid.

Planning permission for connection infrastructure can take another two years, followed by up to 10 years waiting for the transmission system to be reinforced in order to carry the extra power.

The IWEA is asking for co-ordination between the planning authorities and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which handles grid offers, so that applications for both can be made at the same time.

It also wants planning decisions speeded up. Wind farms over a certain size can be fast-tracked by applying directly to An Bord Pleanála as a Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID) but IWEA says getting a declaration that a project qualifies as an SID takes 32 weeks on average.

David Connolly, chief executive of the IWEA, said: "The rules for whether or not you are an SID are very clear-cut. If you're more than 25 turbines, you're SID, or if you're 50 megawatts or more, you're SID; but there are cases where it has 12 months to get that confirmed."

An Bord Pleanála is supposed to determine planning applications within 18 weeks, but Mr Connolly said the average time for wind farms was 66 weeks.

Planning bottlenecks were not the only obstacle faced by wind farm developers, Mr Connolly said, but they were the easiest to fix.

Irish Independent