The Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2020 was introduced in the Dáil this afternoon (Tuesday, November 24) with the aim of implementing “sensible regulations” for wind farm developments.

This is Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley’s third attempt since 2014 to introduce such a bill, and he said he is “going to keep trying at it”.

The Laois-Offaly TD said the Sinn Féin bill seeks to introduce practical regulations that be implemented to allow wind farms to be constructed, but to be located in the correct places. It “establishes opportunities for community involvement”.

“Across the midlands, wind farms have sprung up and are being constructed without any regulations or even up-to-date guidelines, working on out-of-date 2007 guidelines,” the deputy said.

“In both Laois and Offaly, massive turbines have been erected [and], in some cases, very close to dwelling houses.

“Our bill attempts to introduce some common sense to setback distances and, to deal with that debate which has been very contentious, we’re proposing a minimum setback distance of 10 times the height of the turbine to the tip of the blade; for noise levels to be kept within the WHO [World Health Organization] limits; and for shadow flicker from the propellor not to be permitted to pass over a dwelling house.

Crucially, it gives back power to local authorities and councillors, which was taken away from them when the Critical Infrastructure Act was brought through this house.

“It removed the power of councillors to decide on these matters, the people who were elected at local level and this is very important in relation to wind farms – we need to involve local communities in the developments, of renewable energy and in wind turbine development, to avoid the conflict and the resistance in areas it has impacted.”

The deputy said that “in line with the best practices across Europe”, the bill would allow local communities within the 4km radius to buy shares in projects and to receive shares as a dividend.

“This could provide great financial assistance for disadvantaged rural areas and help to regenerate rural areas that have been marginalised and disadvantaged over the past few decades.”

The deputy added that it is “very unfortunate” that three consecutive governments have failed to put in place wind farm regulations.

I believe there are some very simple common sense changes which can be made to help local communities and to support the sector to develop properly in a sustainable way.

“There is a feeling that this has been put on the back foot the whole time and meanwhile, the wind farms spring up.”