You Must Be Joking, Mr. Kelly!!

monster turbines The Independent reported on 25 May 2015 that the Labour Party parliamentary party will this week debate proposals to introduce new restrictions on the development of wind turbines close to people’s homes. Apparently Labour TDs and senators are demanding changes in “set-back distances” and the introduction of a cap on the size of turbines.

“Environment Minister Alan Kelly is understood to be considering plans to increase the distance required between homes and turbines from 500m to 700m.”

There are two things very wrong with this statement. Firstly, 200 extra metres will not make any difference at all to the nearby residents’ health and quality of life. Secondly, the debate on setback distances conveniently avoids the more important debate as to whether we need wind farms at all, given the dramatic over-supply of these monsters already, and the undue emphasis placed on wind-energy to the detriment of other renewable energy sources. Minister Kelly, enough of this nonsense.  When the 2006 Guidelines were published, recommending a setback distance of 500m, wind turbine heights were on average 54m tall.  The turbines being used in Ireland are  at least 3.5 times as high, some 185m tall. This graphic from Harvard University shows how wind turbines have grown over the years. That graphic is now five years out of date, with industrial turbines growing even larger in the interim period – the maximum height shown here of 100m has almost doubled in the last five years. turbine size Accordingly, at the moment even if we were to use the completely inadequate 2006 guidelines, we should be talking about a minimum set-back distance of 1.5 km to obviate the health dangers of noise. The proposed 700 m is still less than half this minimum distance. When taking into account the flicker effect, a minimum set-back distance of 3.00 km would have been reasonable in 2006 with a 100m turbine.

turbine size

This is a more recent diagram by the UK Authority. As you can see, their predictions have already been outstripped, as we have turbines of over 185m in 2015 being planned for the Irish midlands. When one considers how wind turbines are continuously increasing in size and power, it might be prudent to talk about a distance of 5.00 km? Given how long it takes to amend these guidelines, perhaps we should plan for the future? Or an even better idea, why not stop building them?


The Labour Party wonders why it has zero-credibility with the Irish public.  When they pull stunts like this, I am surprised at their surprise.

About Neil van Dokkum

Neil van Dokkum (B. SocSc; LLB; LLM; PGC Con.Lit) Neil is a law lecturer and has been so since arriving in Ireland from South Africa in 2002. Prior to that Neil worked in a leading firm of solicitors from 1987-1992, before being admitted as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of South Africa (a barrister) in 1992. He published three books in South Africa on employment law and unfair dismissal, as well as being published in numerous national and international peer-reviewed journals. Neil currently specialises in employment law, medical negligence law, family law and child protection law. He dabbles in EU law (procurement and energy). Neil retired from full-time practice in 2002 to take up a lecturing post. He has published three books since then, “Nursing Law for Irish Students (2005); “Evidence” (2007); and “Nursing Law for Students in Ireland” (2011). His current interest is the area of disability as a politico-economic construct. Neil is very happily married to Fiona, and they have two sons, Rory and Ian.
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5 Responses to You Must Be Joking, Mr. Kelly!!

  1. Also showing themselves to have zero credibility are so called environmental groups like “friends of the earth”. In an interview for RTE’s “this week” radio program, a representative from FOTE warned against any increase in set back distances, and even questioned 500 meters as possibly being too restrictive for development.

  2. Pat Swords says:

    Johnathan Swift wrote eloquently about these issues more than three hundred years ago. As he rightly pointed out ‘It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into.’ All things complex can, with care and attention, be broken down into subsets, which when analysed and evaluated either stack up or don’t. Such as in the below:

    Click to access Clean-Energy-What-is-it-and-what-are-we-paying-for.pdf

    However, if you even attempt to discuss these matters with these people of this Green dogma, there is enormous outrage, not to mention that they lash out and start insulting you. Indeed, the behaviour of senior legal representatives from the EU, who I have dealt with on these issues as long ago as 2009, I can only describe as not just unprofessional, but downright disgraceful. For instance, is the below how you would expect the most senior legal officials in the EU Commission to behave in an International Legal Tribunal:

    Click to access frmCommV9g_Comments_on_EU_Decision_12.01.2015.pdf

    Going back to Johnathan Swift again in his Gulliver’s Travels, he initially ended up in Laputa and met a man engaged in a project to extract sunbeams from cucumbers; reminiscent of the pseudo science we still have in abundance. Then in his final voyage he ends up with the Yahoos, which can be described as humanoid delinquents without reason; plenty of those still around.

    It’s an age old problem, but that is why we put in a system of laws to hold it in check. However, looks like the Yahoos are in the positions of power, ignoring those laws, and won’t be content until they have the place wrecked – and then we will wonder why!

    • Neil van Dokkum says:

      Thank you Pat. One of my favourite legal quotes comes from Jonathan Swift:

      “Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.”

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