Tuesday 16 January 2018

We need to re-think policy on wind farms

THE storms that ravaged Ireland since last Christmas and their possible link to climate change have done a lot to nudge people towards greater environmental awareness, and that's a good thing.

George Bush and the Texas oil barons would like us to believe otherwise, but the reality is that a global over-reliance on fossil fuels, and the ever increasing production of green house gases, has damaged our fragile planet and now we're starting to reap the whirlwind of our folly. What the future holds is anything but certain, but we can expect sea walls to grow taller and stronger.

It is just such a scenario that makes switching to 'green' energy so eminently sensible. Ireland is particularly well placed - geographically at least - to become a significant producer of renewable energy. We have the boundless energy of the wild Atlantic, sometimes quiet literally, at our doorsteps and as for wind - well we're not short of it.

Pushed along by the EU and our commitments under the Kyoto Protocol we have made some tentative steps towards harvesting wave energy and rather more bold strides in harnessing the power of the prevailing winds to produce electricity.

All commendable stuff that should see us becoming more energy self-sufficient and environmentally friendly. It is more than a little disappointing then to find that the bottom appears to have fallen out of our grand 'green' plan because Britain has backed out of a deal to buy our wind-generated electricity.

But worse than that, the wind-powered plan to turn Ireland a deeper shade of green is exposed as a sham, designed to generate revenue for the Government rather than benefit communities living in the shadow of wind turbines by, for example, providing them with a cheaper source of power.

On top of this there's the uncomfortable reality that 'green' energy isn't quite so environmentally friendly for those living beside wind farms where giant turbines tower over the landscapes, causing constant noise and disturbing 'shadow flicker' as sunbeams are chopped up by whirring turbine blades and turned into strobe lights.

Throughout the country wind farm proposals have caused consternation in rural communities that are fighting desperately to oppose them. In the face of Government policy their efforts have mostly been in vain and turbines continue to sprout from bleak hillsides. Division has been caused in communities as well by this ill thought out and poorly communicated policy, with the farmers who benefit by leasing land to wind farm developers drawing the ire of their neighbours.

Now that the plan to export wind energy to Britain has fallen apart there is an opportunity to re-think our wind farm policy and then move forward with a more coherent, inclusive strategy. For a start, there needs to be open debate on what is a sustainable - or tolerable - number of turbines and where they can be located. Then there needs to be real sharing of the benefits so that residents are adequately compensated for having the green giants as neighbours.

New Ross Standard

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