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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.

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.

Treatment of Curtailment of Wind Farms in Tie-Break situations

28th May 2012

On 29th March 2012 the SEM Committee decided to withdraw its decision to treat curtailment issues in a tie-break situation on a firm access quantity basis (as set out in Section 3.5 of the SEM-11-105) and publish a further consultation paper on the matter.

As identified by the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) in their response to the current consultation (SEM-12-028) “the treatment of curtailment has been acknowledged for almost 10 years now and indeed has been an item under consultation for more than four years”.

This current consultation is the summation of several regulatory approaches to addressing the unavoidable curtailment issues facing wind generation in Ireland as we reach maximum allowable penetration levels in the electricity network.

As a result, the current consultation has attracted considerable interest from all affected players in the Irish energy sector. The progress of the SEM-12-028 consultation can be viewed on the All Island Project 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.

Appropriate Assessments (AA) and Natura Impact Statements (NIS)

21st September 2011

With the increasing amount of wind farm developments in the country, the national planning and development regulations and local authorities have actively revised the requirements in terms of environmental impacts.

The EU Habitats Directive requires an ‘Appropriate Assessment’ (AA) to be carried out where a plan or project is likely to have a significant impact on a Natura 2000 site. Natura 2000 sites include Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs). See more on this in Gael Force’s Resources section on Pre-construction.

Natura Impact Statements are now standard procedure in environmentally sensitive locations and/or on significant wind farm developments. The measure of significance is generally at the discretion of the local planning authority and should be discussed as early as possible, for example in a pre-planning meeting.

On a finer point, the 3rd Amendment to the 2011 Planning and Development Regulations requires that if a Natura Impact Statement is carried out as part of a planning application, then it needs to be declared in the newspaper notice and site notices. A more detailed explanation can be found in the document or by contacting your local planning authority.