Kicking Cans?

pass the buck

I have had too much on the go to be able to do another blog, so I am very happy to welcome an experienced wind warrior and ethical activist, Nigel de Haas, to tell us about his correspondence with the esteemed Minister.

Copies of the letters can be found at the end of the blog:



The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has responded to a letter that I wrote to him on 14th February by letter dated 27th March in which he has clarified the following points of public interest:
● A review of the Wind Energy Guidelines is a key commitment in the Programme for Government (May 2016);
● The review of Wind Energy Guidelines began in December 2013;
● This is a very technical area and engagement between the DCCAE and the DHPCLG is ongoing in order to bring the review to completion;
● The proposed new guidelines will be subject to SEA and associated public consultation before they are finalised by Government.

And so dear folks, having sat on their hands for three years since the close of public consultation, and having sat on the findings of the July 2015 RPS Report for two years and despite having committed to issuing the revised guidelines by November last year, the Minister and his Department intend to kick the can right out of the stadium, let alone down the road.

How far we have travelled from the lofty promises of the Programme for a Partnership Government, where Section 13.3.K) addressed the Rights of Local Communities and Indigenous Energy Generation with the words:

“The new Government understands the divisions and distress caused in local communities who feel that new energy infrastructure, like wind farms and pylons are imposed on them. The technology and scale of wind farms has evolved significantly since the last set of planning guidelines were introduced in 2006. As a matter of urgency the new Government will update the wind farm planning guidelines, within 3 to 6 months, to offer a better balance between the concerns of local communities and the need to invest in indigenous energy projects. These new planning guidelines will be informed by the public consultation process and best international practice”.

Words it seems are not the same as promises. Perhaps they are the new alternative reality? The subject of my letter to Minister Naughten of 14th February was the Public Disclosure finding by the Commissioner for Environmental Information in case CEI-15-0032 where he stated that:

“If disclosure were to lead to a submission being made to either or both Departments which was of such significance that it could not be ignored, such a submission would appear to be highly important and very much in the public interest.”

The disclosure referred to included a report commissioned by SEAI and prepared by RPS in 2015, showing that the size and ramifications of planned wind farm development far exceed the parameters in current use. Section 3.2.3 of the report states that the typical wind turbine size in any future development is likely to have a power rating of 3.5MW and a tip height of 150 to 175m (up to 190m in low-wind areas).

This is five (5) times larger than the 0.66MW wind turbines typically installed in 2006 when WEDG06 was issued.

Table 3.2 of the report shows that an estimated setback distance of 1209m would be necessary to meet the 40dB absolute noise limit proposed in the draft revision of WEGD06, and even with a 45dB limit the setback is estimated as 782m.

Compare these (Government-Commissioned Study) figures to Section 5.6 of WEDG06 which states:

“noise is unlikely to be a significant problem where the distance from the nearest turbine to any noise sensitive property is more than 500 metres”.

The disclosure is certainly of a significance that cannot be ignored, and it is indeed in the public interest that the following submission should be made:

The proposed revision to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines (WEDG06) is now three years overdue;
● The existing, obsolete guidelines do not afford proper protection to rural residents;
● The Government has been shown by the CEI-ordered disclosure above to have commissioned modelling that reinforces the point that WEDG06 does not afford proper protection to rural residents.

Public planning policy implemented by all administrations in Ireland over the past 50 years or more has supported dispersed rural housing rather than the consolidated settlement pattern found in continental Europe where farms are huge and farm labour lives in consolidated hamlets and villages. Irish farms have historically been small, and sons and daughters frequently build on parcels of land from the family farm, or farmers have sold off plots to people who prefer to live in the quiet of the countryside.

The direct consequence of this historic planning policy is that there is far less potential to develop wind farms in Ireland than there is in continental Europe, without adversely affecting the lives of large numbers of people who have their homes in rural Ireland. Key Objective 5.6.1 of the draft revision to WEDG06:

“seeks to achieve a balance between the protection of residential amenity of neighbouring communities in the vicinity of wind energy developments, and facilitating the meeting of national renewable energy targets”.

The Minister is not convinced; in his letter of 27th March he takes the following position on the RPS report and setback distances:

● Key to the (RPS) calculations were the accumulation of worst-case based scenarios meaning that the figures arrived at cannot always represent likely real world situations;
● The figures should therefore be considered as maximum theoretical distances at which wind farm noises can be detected at the specified levels, rather than as minimum distances required to reduce noise intensities to those levels;
● This highlights the complexity of the conditions under investigation in the review of the guidelines currently under way.

It is all sort of flexible, squeezy stuff. Especially a setback of 1209m, which the Minister considers to be a maximum theoretical distance at which wind farm noises can be detected at a level of 40dB (the noise level first mooted by his Department in the 2013 draft Targeted Revision of the Wind Energy Guidelines).

The long suffering residents of rural Ireland have a better chance of resolving how many angels can dance on the head of a pin than getting any reasonable level of protection against inappropriately closely sited wind farms from the Ministers of DCCAE and DHPCLG any time soon.

And in the intervening period, more and more wind farms will happily pass through the planning process bound only by the outdated 500m setback, 43/45dB noise limit and permissible levels of shadow flicker.

Whatever happened to the concerned Minister for Communications, Climate Change and Environment who told the Dáil on 6th October 2016 that “I am as anxious as anybody else to have these new guidelines put in place as the current guidelines are not fit for purpose”?

Nigel de Haas
Dunmanway, Co. Cork.

Letter to Minister from Nigel

Reply to Nigel from Minister

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.
This entry was posted in Irish Farmers Association; IFA; wind farm contracts, NREAP; National Renewable Energy Action Plan; EU Commission; Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee; ACCC, Planning and Development Act 2000; guidelines; directives; Sections 28 & 29, Wind Farm Guidelines, turbines, flicker, noise, distance, Denis Naughten, Wind Turbine Syndrome; Professor Alun Evans and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Kicking Cans?

  1. Ronan Browne says:

    Same old, same old waffle and spin from Naughten, avoiding the real issues and managing to fill 2 pages with empty slobbery preaching. Community Engagement my arse – there was a bit of that lark here in the Lettergunnet area of Connemara. When a few of us said we were very unhappy with the carry-on, the rest of the ‘community’ snuck off and did their little dirty deal with the wind-weasels behind our backs. It is now over a year later and they’re all pretending we don’t exist.

    Community Dismantling, more like…!!!

    Well, after all the sneaky back-room deals, the wind-weasels managed to buy off the locals here for a couple of hundred euro per annum each. Better to nip into Aldi instead of M&S for the champagne, methinks, in this case. And probably have to wait to buy the peanuts when next year’s blood pennies drop into their accounts 🙂

  2. fclauson says:

    A plausible reason for delay is that if the proposed 40db and setback model is adopted
    85% of what is already built will fail to meet the criteria.

    That’s an impact in the order of 1400 Turbines built in the wrong place and (I estimate) are seriously impacting 1000’s of people spread across 100’s of families.

    But lets look at the models.
    Quoting the old adage “Garbage in Garbage out” combined with “lies, dammed lies and statistics” if these models are to be relied upon then the input metrics must be robust. Unfortunately on examination this is showing not to be the case. Therefore the model outputs might very well be giving policy and planning decisions erroneous guidance.

    In section 3.2.1 RPS have made an assumption With a single turbine impacting on a sensitive location, the acoustic model predicts a noise level in dB.
    Due to turbine separation it is likely that the next nearest turbine will be at least 1.4 times the distance of the first turbine away, if the turbines are close to the sensitive receptor location. This would have the effect of adding 2 dB to the single turbine noise level. At greater separation distances the cumulative impact would be less than this at the sensitive location.

    In order to estimate the potential of additional turbines (more than 2) a correction factor of 3 dB has been adopted for the purpose of the acoustic model.

    This assumption is seriously flawed. Take a look at‐8.86&zoom=12 where you can see its common place for a dwelling to be between multiple wind farms/wind turbines. Therefore the assumption that the next closes turbine is 1.4 times the distance of the first is unsubstantiated.

    In the departments models RPS has used figures of circa 30% to 33% as the expected capacity figures. Using a quick survey of windfarms across Ireland you will see this seriously low balls the capacity figures and with the ever growing size of turbines a figure of 40% or more should be used. This can be quickly validated by using the curtailment reports available on the Eirgrid Website.

    Wind speeds
    Currently before the High Court in 2016‐613‐JR MC DONNELL ‐V‐ AN BORD PLEANALA 2016613 JR the Plaintiff positions that data in the 2013 Wind Farm Atlas cannot be relied upon because (on a random but significant number of points) it has significantly lower wind speeds than the 2003 Wind Farm Atlas.

    Before your department depends on 2013 Wind Farm Atlas they should conduct a survey of existing wind farms to determine if the Atlas is actually fitting what is being measured in the field.
    My own research (seriously hampered by the ESB in their refusal to release data under AIE) is showing that wind speeds across Ireland are more in keeping with the 2003 data than the 2013 data.

    Noise limits
    The models use two noise levels 40db and 45db – both of these levels would be too high if they are shown to cause a nuisance.
    It should be pointed out that in the recent Cork court case (SHIVNEN & ORS ‐V‐ ENERCON WIND FARM SERVES LTD & ANOR 2011/9955 P) the noise levels as detailed in the developer’s compliance report where around 35db to 37db. In spite of this on inspection and when all factors were taken into account the wind farm was still found to be a nuisance with the amount of damages still to be resolved.

    This argument around noise level is supported in Moulbury & others vs Kerns and others 1997 14 MCA and 1716P where the learned judge says

    increase over background of 6 decibels, and certainly 10 decibels, is such as to give rise to an
    expectation of community response.
    It was “marginal” only in the sense that the readings indicated that the measure of a 10 decibel excess over background had been just achieved. I do not think, however, that this is a “marginal” case in the context of the ordinary law of nuisance. On the contrary, I consider that the recurring…..
    I do not think the Plaintiffs and in particular the Molumbys have been afforded “the comfortable and healthy enjoyment” of their property on the basis set out by Henchy J. in Hanrahan. In reaching this conclusion, I have had regard to all the evidence and not just the evidence of the acoustic experts.

    the new guidelines are being guided by flawed models – 1200M may well proove not to be far enough.

  3. Pat Swords says:

    The gross illegalities of the wind energy programme I have raised before, in essence it is a product of political lies and bullying. However, this has its consequences as bit by bit the public see through it. In Germany the failure of the State to provide proper noise protection for its citizens is increasingly a ‘hot topic’, as more and more see that the whole programme is based on nothing but the ‘wishful thinking’ of a smug sanctimonious elite, who never had the manners or skill to do a proper due diligence on what they were forcing on others. See for instance the below:

    Interestingly enough in the last week the German Employer’s Association has also published a damning article on the whole aspect of infrasound:

    The autotranslate turns it into infrared instead of infrasound, but you can get the gist below:

  4. Pingback: Cans can bounce (back) | The Law is my Oyster

  5. liek versloot says:

    Since so many questions stay unanswered,
    -effects of infrasound on human and animal beings,
    – cumulative effects in areas surrounded by multiple projects,
    -safety when turbine brakes fail
    -effects of thunderstorms and lightning on electronic devices in the area
    – decrease in values of houses and land, and how to compensate’
    – how to adapt the grid to the changing supplies of energy from wind and solar and how to
    guarantee stability
    – all the claims arising from projects built under obsolete rules

    to name but a few,

    I can understand the minister kicking cans.
    The problems is that it works to the unjustifiable advantage of the wind industry,
    and against the people and environment that soon will be surrounded by higher and higher turbines…

    The only reasonable and fair solution should be a moratorium on building and decisions on planning

    County councils and An Bord should support this. They too are responsible for the sorry state of affairs, and can’t hide behind the minister’s back..

    Developers in the meantime are speeding on. Two projects in WestCork will have their high court cases dealt with in commercial court, possible because the financial interests are considered to be so big that the normal waiting list takes too long. Money speaks loudest..Once profits can be made, hurry, hurry, develop, build, and sell on. Boom times don’t last.

    And, by the way, do we have a say in the use of the PSO levy we pay on our electricity bills?

    liek versloot,

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