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Wind Energy Development Guidelines – Noise and Shadow Flicker Consultation

12th February 2014

Minister for Housing and Planning, Jan O’Sullivan TD, announced on the 11th of December 2013, the commencement of a public consultation process on proposed revisions to the 2006 Wind Energy Development Guidelines focusing on the issues of noise (including distance) and shadow flicker.

The revised noise and shadow flicker sections of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines being put out for public consultation proposes;

  • The setting of a more stringent absolute noise limit (day and night) of 40 decibels (dB) for future wind energy developments. This limit is an outdoor limit, in general the reduction of noise levels between the outside of a dwelling and inside would be approximately 10 decibels.
  • A mandatory setback of 500 metres between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling for amenity considerations.
  • A condition be attached to all future planning permissions for wind farms to ensure that there will be no shadow flicker at any dwelling within 10 rotor diameters of a wind turbine. If shadow flicker does occur, the wind energy developer or operator will be required to take necessary measures, such as turbine shut down for the period necessary, to eliminate the shadow flicker.

 

The proposed revisions to the guidelines and the Marshall Day Acoustics noise study are available online at www.environ.ie in addition to information on making written submissions during the public consultation period.

Submissions on the consultation are due in by the 21st of February 2014 and can be e-mailed to windsubmissions@environ.ie.

Are you fit for the new REFIT 2 timelines?

28th May 2013

In the latest example of “non-joined up thinking” by the government, if a generator wants to receive REFIT 2 payments for a given PSO period (Oct-Sep), then it needs to have a REFIT 2 Letter of Offer and a PPA agreed 5 months beforehand (end of April). It’s a good thing that the new legislation states they only had to notify the suppliers of this change and not the generators!

 

The Dept. of Communications Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) have significantly changed REFIT legislation for 2013 and how it affects generators looking for REFIT 2 Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

In the current Statutory Instrument Amendment of the Electricity Regulation Act, there have been two significant changes:

  • At least 5 months prior to the commencement of a levy period each relevant supplier shall provide the CER with an estimate of the additional costs……that such supplier estimates it will incur in the next levy period in complying with its obligations under this Order in respect of each REFIT power purchase agreement to which it is a party.
  •  A relevant supplier may only receive payment from the PSO Levy fund in respect of each REFIT PPA to which it is a party in any given levy period when the specific REFIT PPA……has been included in both the PSO levy decision taken by the CER for the specific levy period.

 

So for example, the upcoming PSO period is October 2013 to September 2014. If a generator plans on being operational within that timeframe and it wants to receive REFIT 2 payments, then it would have needed a REFIT 2 Letter of Offer and PPA contract in place before the end of April 2013.

It is also reported that in the case of projects that require banks to cover the senior debt, some banks are now asking for proof from the PPA providers that a given project has been included in the PSO period submissions.

This is going to put even further pressure on generators that require REFIT 2 payments to get their projects off the ground. It gives less flexibility for PPA negotiations, it restricts the timelines of projects and it gives the financial lenders yet another Condition Precedent when closing out financial agreements.

 

 Acronyms:

CER – Commission of Energy Regulation

DCENR – Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources

PPA – Power Purchase Agreement

PSO – Public Service Obligation

REFIT – Renewable Energy Feed-In-Tariff

Eirgrid announce timelines for Gate 3 Constraints Reports

16th May 2013

Further to the publication of the decision paper Treatment of Curtailment in Tie-break Situations (Reference: SEM-13-010) by the SEM committee on the 29th of March 2013, Eirgrid are now in a position where the Gate 3 Constraints Reports can be completed and issued to Gate 3 applicants as per the CER Direction CER-08-260.

The reports will be issued for different areas around the country at different time periods between the 24th of April 2013 and the 19th of July 2013. Click here to view the issuance dates of the Gate 3 Constraint Reports.

The constraint levels identified in these studies will ultimately play a part in determining if projects can be successfully financed or not. For those developers that can proceed with their projects, they will then have to contend with more time and policy constraints such as REFIT 2 timelines and planning conditions and expiry.

Kerry County Development Plan Variation Finalised – RE Strategy

5th November 2012

On the 5th of November, Kerry County Council Councillors voted through the 8th Variation to the 2009-2015 County Development Plan, a Renewable Energy Strategy which can be accessed here. In particular, Section 5 of the Renewable Energy Strategy on Wind Energy, proposes exclusion of wind development from the county’s natural heritage designations. This includes the Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle Special Protection Area (SPA).

This will have repercussions on the future of the wind energy industry in Kerry, the third largest county in installed MW; and a county that has seen great benefits in terms of investment, jobs and rates. This action will also set precedence in place which could in turn affect other local authorities around the country. The reports to date also leave significant question marks around the re-powering of wind farms currently operational within the SPA.

Proposed Treatment of Wind Farms in Tie-Breaks – SEM-12-090

30th October 2012

On the 3rd of October 2012, the Single Electricity Market (SEM) Committee published a proposed decision on the treatment of curtailment in tie-break situations (SEM-12-090). Two other documents were published alongside SEM-12-090. They were a Transmission System Operator (TSO) report examining the effect of three options outlined in SEM-12-028 on Dispatch Balancing Costs and wind curtailment and a TSO annex setting out the proposed methodology for distinguishing between events of constraints and curtailment.

The extended deadline for receipt of responses to these publications is close of business Monday the 19th of November 2012.

Summary of Proposed Decision

The Proposed Decision of the SEM-12-090 document is Pro-rata dispatch with defined curtailment limit.

This option involves the pro-rata treatment for curtailment of all operational windfarms in dispatch and the imposition of a cap / threshold for the payment of Dispatch Balancing Costs (DBC) compensation for curtailment. It is the SEM Committee’s intention that by 2020, there would no longer be DBC compensation available for curtailment of wind.

The features of this option are as follows:

On the dispatch side curtailment for all operational windfarms will be treated on a pro-rata basis, i.e. all operational windfarms (firm and non-firm) will be turned down on an equal basis by the TSO in a curtailment situation. On the market side, as per current rules, firm projects will be paid market revenues through DBC when curtailed. However this full compensation of curtailment for firm and partially firm generators (0.1% to 99.9%) will only continue up to a fixed point – at the absolute latest this will be the 1 January 2016.

Kerry County Development Plan Variation – Renewable Energy

22nd June 2012

 Kerry County Council have recently proposed an 8th Variation to the 2009-2015 County Development Plan which can be accessed here. This variation mainly takes the form of a Renewable Energy Strategy document and maps and is stated to facilitate and manage the development of renewable energy development in a manner which is accordance with the proper planning and sustainable development of the county.

The document deals with several aspects of Renewable Energy in the county and the proposed renewable energy strategy of the Planning Policy Unit for the future. Section 5 on Wind Energy forms a substantial part of the document and has significant proposals that will affect future developments in the county. In particular, the draft plan proposes exclusion of wind development from the county’s natural heritage designations.

This will include the Stacks to Mullaghareirk Mountains, West Limerick Hills and Mount Eagle Special Protection Area (SPA). According to the Renewable Energy Strategy document, this SPA has 225 permitted turbines in it, of the 375 turbines permitted in the county between 1997-2011 (no information was available on actual constructed turbines). Referencing a Habitats Assessment and other information, the document states that:

“Having considered these assessments, the objectives of these conservation areas, the extent of existing and permitted development and the Planning Authority’s obligation to ensure compliance with the Birds and Habitats directives these areas are considered to have no further capacity for wind development.

In contrast with this, the SPA which covers over 56,000 hectares, has a maximum height of 451m and a mean height of 200m, which provides some of the best wind resources in Ireland along with having relatively low amounts of dwellings and noise sensitive locations. Exclusion of this entire SPA area in Kerry for future wind energy development will put question marks over the economic feasability of “suitable” development areas proposed in county Kerry.

Observations and submissions must be submitted before 5.00 p.m. Thursday 28th June 2012.

IWEA publishes revised Best Practice Guidelines

4th April 2012

IWEA have recently published a revised edition of the Best Practice Guidelines for the Irish Wind Energy Industry. This document is the most comprehensive and thoroughly defined set of guidelines for wind energy in Ireland today. The guidelines were launched at the 2012 Irish Wind Energy Conference in Dublin and a PDF of the document can be found here.

IWEA’s press release for the guidelines can be found here.

 

Announcement: Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) 2

22nd March 2012

Under EU Directive 2009/28/EC, Ireland has been set a legally binding target for the share of renewable energy in consumption by 2020. Our legally binding target is 16% overall, and in our National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) we have set out how we intend to achieve the 16% by 2020. At the end of 2010, our consumption of electricity from renewable sources stood at 14.8% and we need to increase this to 40% by 2020, if we are to meet our legal obligations. This is where REFIT 2 comes in.

 

REFIT 2 sets out to encourage the development of new renewable generation through REFIT for onshore wind, hydro and biomass landfill gas. REFIT 2 will introduce a support scheme to ensure that onshore wind, hydro and biomass landfill gas technologies can contribute to 2020 targets.

 

REFIT 2 is designed to incentivise the addition of 4,000MW of new renewable electricity capacity to the Irish grid. Plants must be new plants in all cases, neither built nor under construction on 1/1/2010. Projects must be operational by end 2015. The support for any particular project cannot exceed 15 years and may not extend beyond 31/12/2030.

 

Reference prices in REFIT 2 are broadly in line with the existing REFIT 1 support scheme, however there are some significant changes in the terms and conditions, particularly in relation to balancing payments.

 

Information on all the REFIT programmes and, in particular, REFIT 2 terms and conditions can be found on the Dept. of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources website.

Property Registration Authority of Ireland (PRAI) – Free Interactive Map

17th January 2012

The PRAI provides a comprehensive and secure system of land registration and can be used to access folio numbers, site areas, burdens and ownership. In 2011, the PRAI have launched a new free map viewer on their website for Non-Account Holders. The map allows any member of the public to identify folio numbers, site areas, site boundaries, number of plans and burdens for free. They have also set up a simple credit card payment system to access copies of the registered folio.

Free Public Interactive Maps – Environment and Wind Resources

16th January 2012

The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) have both recently updated their online resources. Currently, one of the best resources on each website is a free interactive map that anyone can access to find out information on their location within the country.

The SEAI Map Viewer contains information on the Irish Wind Atlas, on-shore/off-shore wind resources, environmental designations, constraint areas and more.

 

The NPWS Map Viewer contains detailed information on environmental designations throughout the country such as:

–              Special Areas of Conservation (SAC)

–              Special Protection Areas (SPA)

–              Natural Heritage Areas (NHA)

 

They also allow selection of individual townlands to quickly identify local environmental designations.