By B.N. Frank
Some world leaders have given up on wind projects altogether (along with other “green” projects) as have climate groups and developers. In the meantime, opposition to development and operation continues to increase worldwide due to the numerous economic, environmental, health, and safety issues associated with them. People have reported symptoms and illness from turbines for years and recently again in Ireland.
From Offaly Express:
Cloghan residents say local wind farm is affecting their mental and physical health
A number of residents living beside the nine turbines of Cloghan Wind Farm have told the Midland Tribune that the enormous turbines are having a negative effect on their mental and physical health.
Several of the residents living on the one road in the townland of Stonestown said they are fed up with the noise and the flicker coming from the turbines, which have a maximum height of 169 metres and are located about 700 metres from their homes.
Chairperson of the group, Ger Buckley, pointed out, during a meeting with this journalist, that the residents objected to the turbines before they were built but their objections were ignored.
“Right from the get-go the wind farm has been a bad experience for us,” he said. “During the construction phase our road was in a dreadful state; so bad that sometimes people couldn’t leave their homes in the morning and head to work, because of the great gash in the ground.”
Other members of the group who talked to the Tribune included Des Crofton, Nora Higgins, Olly Flynn and Dona Kearney.
Des Crofton said Statkraft, the company running the farm on behalf of the owners, hadn’t, as far as he was aware, set up the Community Benefit Fund yet, nor its associated Near Neighbour Fund. These Funds will benefit the 16 houses located along the Stonestown road. The Near Neighbour Fund provides an annual electricity contribution and once off support to carry out energy efficiency measures and / or education support to the residents living within one kilometre of a turbine.
“Some nights,” commented Dona Kearney, “the noise from the turbines is brutal. It’s keeping us awake and we are not getting a proper sleep. Our experience of the farm has been negative from day one. If we had known this would happen then we wouldn’t have allowed it to go ahead; we would have blocked the road.” Dona showed me a video of the flicker effect in her house. The effect is pulse-like and regular, creating, she said, an irritating effect.
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Des Crofton told me that the main problem is a lack of adequate communication on behalf of the company which owns the turbines. “I’m sure if they communicated more with us, in a meaningful way, then things would proceed much more smoothly.” He pointed out that his house is shielded by a number of large trees therefore he is unaffected by the flicker problem. He added that he is also fortunate that the prevailing wind doesn’t blow in the direction of his house, therefore noise is not an issue for him either. “However I deeply sympathise with the other residents along the lane and their cause.”
21 new turbines are due to be erected in Derrinlough; and another ten in Fivealley. The residents hope this won’t make the noise pollution worse. “The noise is like a big, thick skipping rope; or a washing machine or dryer,” commented Dona.
The residents pointed out that three of the children living on the lane, two girls and one boy, have sensory issues, and they are adversely affected by the flicker from the turbines. Ger said his daughter is experiencing sleeping issues because of the noise.
The residents believe that, in general, the turbines, since they started operating in November 2022, have created a number of mental and physical issues.
“We were living in a very tranquil area,” said Dona, “but that has changed now. Even having a cup of tea in your garden is no longer a pleasure because of the flicker and the noise.”
Ger pointed out that back in 2014 the residents gathered together 48 signatures in opposition to the then proposed wind farm and submitted the signatures to An Bord Pleanála. The Board agreed with the residents and denied planning permission to Galetech. The company resubmitted their proposal, lowering the turbine height by ten metres. “We wrote letters of objection the second time round,” remarked Ger, “but An Bord Pleanála ignored our objections and granted planning permission to Galetech to proceed with the construction of their turbines.” Gaeltech subsequently sold the wind farm to the current owners, GR Wind Farms 1 (a Dublin company), who constructed the turbines and contracted Statkraft, a Cork company, to operate and manage the wind farm on behalf of the owners.
Ger added that the residents have tried to contact Statkraft on a number of occasions, to express their concerns, but haven’t received any answers.
Olly Flynn pointed out that the turbines are also interfering with the mobile phone signals and with the internet connection. “Our Wi-Fi connection, our mobile phone connection, have worsened since the turbines started operating a year ago,” he commented.
Nora said she believes that being near the turbines will affect the value of their houses.
The Community Benefit Fund is part of the RESS, the Renewable Energy Support Scheme, which is part of the Programme for Government and the Climate Action Plan 2021 and was created with the aim of achieving the target of at least 80% renewable electricity by 2030.
Deirdre Keegan, Community Liaison, Galetech, told a meeting of Birr 20:20 last month that a key feature of the RESS is that all renewable electricity generation projects must establish a Community Benefit Fund to be used for the wider economic, environmental, social and cultural wellbeing of the local community. The contribution is set at €2 per Megawatt hour of generation of the RESS project. “This means there are real and quantifiable funds being made available annually for the benefit of the local community. The Fund will be aligned to incentivise investment in local renewable energy, energy efficiency measures and climate action initiatives.”
Deirdre said the Fund becomes available one year after the commencement of the commercial operation of the wind farm and it lasts for 15 years, therefore it has commenced for the residents of Stonestown as the farm is a year in operation. During the 15 years every household living within one kilometre of the farm is paid €1,000 per year.
Deirdre added that Galetech will make a planning application for another wind farm. This new wind farm will consist of 11 turbines and will be located in Cush, about five kilometres from Birr, on the Birr / Cloghan road, the N62. When Cush is constructed, she pointed out, the Community Benefit Fund will be €466,000 per year and this will be given out to the community each year, for 15 years. Local clubs and societies located within a ten kilometre radius will be able to apply.
Eventually, there will be four wind farms in the Birr/Cloghan area and the Benefit Fund from these will amount to millions of Euro for the benefit of locals.
Ger pointed out that not all of the 16 houses along Stonestown road are lived in. “It’s more likely that they would be lived in if the turbines weren’t nearby,” he said.
Speaking to The Midland Tribune this week, Claire Dineen, Community Liaison for Statkraft, said both the Community Benefit & Near Neighbour Funds have been established. Details of both funds can be found at: Cloghan Wind Farm Community Fund (changex.org) and Cloghan Wind Farm Near Neighbour Payments (changex.org). The Community Benefit Fund was advertised in the Midland Tribune on Thursday 9th November and is being advertised once again in this week’s paper, dated Thursday 16th November. “We encourage local community groups to apply,” said Claire, “and we will announce recipients in Q1 of 2024.”
Regarding the complaints about noise, Claire pointed out that “Ensuring we comply with noise limits is a critical aspect of the operations for all of our wind farms. A noise compliance report was undertaken by an independent noise specialist who deemed the wind farm to be compliant with the noise limits set out in the planning permission. This report can be viewed upon request to Offaly County Council.”
Regarding the Shadow Flicker complaints she said, “The wind farm has a Shadow Flicker Control System which is currently operating as per the planning conditions of the wind farm. We are in the process of engaging with members of the community who are experiencing shadow flicker so that we can alter the settings of the Shadow Flicker Control System to prevent shadow flicker during specific periods of the day and times of year where the shadow flicker is affecting their property.
“We welcome engagement with the local community,” she continued, “and have been proactive in our outreach over the construction period and from the time the wind farm became fully operational. We have been in regular contact with a number of local residents and neighbours and have engaged with them on the concerns they have. However, we will ensure that we review our current engagement programme in light of these most recent concerns raised with a particular focus on response times to local residents’ concerns.”
The Community Liaison officer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Derek Fanning | 15 Nov 2023 | offalyexpress.ie
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