In the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, communities are ending up “having to take in these enormous, imposing wind farms for no good reason”.

This is according to Daryl Kennedy, spokesperson for the Delvin Raharney Ballivor Wind Action Group in Co. Westmeath.

The group is made up of locals trying to get “right, balanced information to the communities” before the planning applications for wind farms are lodged, which is expected next year.

Turbines are being proposed for lands at Bracklyn and Ballivor, by two different companies – Galetech and Bord na Móna.

The proposed turbines would be the largest in Ireland if permission is granted, at possible heights of around 200m.

“The community has been on alert for several years,” Kennedy tells AgriLand.

Kennedy says that he is “very much into renewable energy”, with measures in place in his own home. He says that himself, along with other members of the group, are fighting back against what “isn’t being done for the greater good”.

“If we knew a wind farm was going in place and was going to have a measurable impact on our carbon emissions, then yes, we’d go for it – but we’re taking in something which is only to meet a completely displaced demand for data centres,” Kennedy says.

“If you have an equation, you have two sides of your equal sign – on one side, you have a good reason and on the other side, you have a good solution. And we don’t have either by wind farms being developed in areas like this.”

‘The economics don’t really stack up’

Kennedy thought back to 2013/2014, when “Pat Rabbitte was minister and there was a huge effort at that time to export electricity to the UK coming from wind energy”.

“At that time, a large number of companies jumped in to try and develop incredible numbers…we’re talking thousands of turbines across the midlands,” Kennedy continues.

Eventually it fell through…personally, I think the economics don’t really stack up. It looks good and at face value it looks like good, clean, green energy.

“Then it came around again only in the last year with Bord na Móna trying to figure out what [it’s] to do with the huge banks of land and [it] obviously decided [it] wants to get into the green renewable space.

“[It] came up with the idea, of what I would characterise as a fairly lazy idea, of just sticking up a whole load of turbines.”

‘Everything has gone into wind’

Kennedy feels the government has “put all its eggs in one basket” by “giving into the wind lobby”.

“Everything has gone into wind. On a lot of days, solar is no good, wind is no good, therefore you need to have some alternatives.

Some days there isn’t a puff of wind – there wouldn’t be a blade of grass moving.

“Years ago we were talking about exporting, whereas now, the focus is on the data centres going up around the Dublin region. Our electricity demand is going to increase because of all the data centres.

“Our electricity demand goes up, data centres want to claim green credentials and the easiest thing to go with is wind, even though you couldn’t possibly run a data centre on wind energy because it’s too intermittent, so you’d end up with this enormous increase in demand for renewables which, at the end of the day, is probably pointless.

“We end up with massive increases in wind farms and so, rural communities like ourselves here in Co. Westmeath and many other communities end up having to take in these enormous, imposing wind farms for no good reason.”

‘Use it in a way to regenerate biodiversity’

Kennedy says that the development of wind farms “is far from what the community wants”.

“Retain the carbon in sinks and put something into the land which doesn’t disturb what is natural. Starting to use it in a way that will regenerate the biodiversity is far better than wind farms,” he says.

If we end up with over 35 turbines if the planning permission is granted, we’re probably talking about anything up to 4,500 trucks worth of concrete being poured into the bog.

“There are some people who would be close to the edge of it, where bog is close to farmland.

“With that possible amount of concrete put into bogs, people need to consider if this will raise water levels, is there going to be flooding, even leaching of materials from the concrete into the local water supply – these things are concerning to many people in the area.”