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 That graphic is now five years out of date, with industrial turbines growing even larger in the interim period – the maximum height shown here of 100m has almost doubled in the last five years. 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.
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.