The government has opposed a bill which was presented by a group of senators earlier this week to “save” the Derrybrien wind farm in Co. Galway from being decommissioned.

In March 2022, the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) announced that it will decommission the 70-turbine wind farm in accordance with planning laws and regulation.

This followed a decision by An Bord Pleanála not to grant retrospective planning permission for the site due to the effects on the environment as a result of a landslide in 2003.

In 2008, the EU Court of Justice concluded that Ireland had failed to assess the environmental effects in accordance with EU directives before planning permissions were granted.

Details on the future of the site in terms of decommissioning and restoration is a matter for Galway County Council, as the relevant planning authority, and the site owner to address.


The bill to “save” the site from being decommissioned was introduced by Senators Michael McDowell, Victor Boyhan, Sharon Keogan, Gerard P. Craughwell, Tom Clonan, and Rónán Mullen.

The group of independent senators sought to transfer the site from its current owner, Gort Wind Farms Limited, a subsidiary of the ESB, to the Western Development Commission.

Senator McDowell argued that the government is “misinterpreting EU law” and is “not required” to decommission the €200 million site which has “enough capacity to power 30,000 homes”.

The programme for government “clearly stated” its objective to promote wind energy and associated infrastructure and investment, Senator Boyhan told the Seanad.

“Our bill seeks to do exactly that. Let us not destroy the capability to provide green energy,” the leader of the Seanad Independent Group, Senator Boyhan said during the debate.

A vote on the bill resulted in six senators voting in favour and 19 senators voting against the bill out of a Seanad membership of 60 senators, according to the independent senators.


Representing the government during the debate, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, Joe O’Brien outlined the reasons for opposing the bill.

The minister of state said that due to An Bord Pleanála refusing to grant substitute consent, the development is unauthorised in accordance with the Planning and Development Act.

“Any new owner would require planning permission and there are no grounds for expecting a different outcome to the previous applications,” the minister of state told the Seanad.

The minister of state added that the provisions in the bill could set an “undesirable precedent” that would “severely undermine” the integrity of the planning system.

Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, Joe O’Brien

The failure to adhere to planning requirements has resulted in the state making penalty payments in excess of €17 million to the European Commission, the bill stated.

Reopening the site would “likely result” in further fines for the state and legal challenges are “almost inevitable” if the wind farm recommences operation, the minister of state said.

The decommissioning of the site may require a separate Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), according to the Green Party Minister of State Joe O’Brien.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications considers that the contribution of the wind farm to Ireland’s renewable energy and emissions targets would “likely be limited”, he said.

“The department is also of the view that the continued production of wind energy from Derrybrien is not expected to have a material impact on ensuring the security of Ireland’s electricity supplies,” he added.

The proposed role of the Western Development Commission to manage the Derrybrien wind farm would pose “intricate challenges” for a non-commercial statutory body, he said.

Transferring operational management of the site to the Western Development Commission is “not in the state’s interests” and, irrespective of site ownership, the development remains unauthorised, he said.