Donegal group ‘baffled’ by Amazon connection to local wind farm

Members of the Finn Valley Wind Action Group say they have been left baffled after Amazon announced it was set to purchase energy from a wind farm in their area where matters in respect of planning have yet to be determined by An Bord Pleanála.

The group says the wind farm in question – Meenbog Wind Farm – has been earmarked for development in an environmentally sensitive area designated by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

The designation, a spokesperson added, has occurred because the area is home to 7% of the Republic of Ireland’s hen harrier population and there are currently two nests of hens in the locality.

Members of the group also pointed out that while planning has been granted for a 19-turbine wind farm (57MW) – to Planree Limited – an application to increase the rotor diameter on the turbines is currently with An Bord Pleanála where a decision in respect of the matter is not due until June 19 next.

‘Delivering clean energy’

Earlier this week, Amazon announced that it was buying the energy from a new wind farm in Ireland being developed by Invis Energy – a parent company of Planree Limited.

Invis Energy was set up in 2011 as a joint venture between Macroom-based Michael Murnane’s engineering and wind-energy company Craydel Group and UK private equity firm HG Capital.

Amazon, meanwhile, pointed out that the project in question – a 91.2MW wind farm in Co. Donegal – was expected to deliver clean energy no later than the end of 2021.

“The project is part of three renewable energy initiatives to be backed by the company,” Amazon added.

“This is part of a long-term goal to power all Amazon Web Services (AWS) global infrastructure with renewable energy.”

Subsequently, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Minister Richard Bruton welcomed the announcement.

‘Baffling scenario’

However, speaking to AgriLand, a spokesperson for Finn Valley Wind Action Group said, given the fact that there is no planning granted for a 91.2MW project as yet, people in the area are “baffled” by the welcoming sentiments from both Amazon and domestic Government leaders – at this point in time.

“The planning permission for the 19-turbine wind farm is part of a strategic infrastructural development that – because of changes to rotor diameter – has not yet been granted planning permission,” a spokesperson for the group continued.

“While Amazon’s involvement in this appears to be a business agreement, we believe the statement released by the company is both premature and untrue.

We are aware that the wind farm developer currently has an application to increase the rotor diameter on the turbines.

“It is baffling too that leaders of this country would welcome a deal without being fully informed on the development which is still at planning stage.

“We feel that this just highlights further the dubious nature of wind farms getting planning permission in this country.

“Amazon talks about its commitment to achieve 100% renewable energy for its global cloud infrastructure but this masks the fact that data centres are a huge drain on the national grid.

“It is important to understand that because wind is not a predictable source it must be backed up by conventional power plants which further contribute to CO2 emissions.”