Timely policy reminder to authorities

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Local authorities in Ireland dealing with planning permits for wind farms can now seek advice from a new set of guidelines published by the Department of the Environment in Dublin. Entitled "Wind Farm Development," the guidelines provide Ireland's nearly 30 local authorities with basic ground rules for dealing with wind farm planning applications.

The document reminds authorities that they have statuatory duty to be mindful of the policy and objectives of national government: "National policy on renewable energy resources is such a policy to which regard should be had in the exercise of planning functions."

While welcoming the new guidelines, Dan Hennevig of Sure Engineering, one of the leading players in the Irish wind market, points out that much work still has to be done to link them with National Heritage Areas (NHA) and to the Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) within the NHAs. While, initially, some 5-7% of the total land area within an NHA might have been expected to have been designated an SAC, it now seems that up to 60% of the areas are being proposed for SAC designation. "The overall picture is not clear by any means," says Hennevig.

Meantime, public acceptance of wind farms does not seem to be a general problem in Ireland. Sure Engineering is involved in the development of a 15 MW wind farm at Barnesmore in County Donegal for Scotland utility Scottish Power. Hennevig says not one solitary objection on visual grounds was received during the planning process, thus giving the lie to the supposed "unsightliness" of wind farms.

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