By Finian Coghlan
LOCALS in the Monasterevin area are getting set to fight plans for a wind farm on their doorstep.
In recent weeks, a Norwegian firm called Statcraft has been writing to residents in the Quinnsboro and Ummeras townslands – about 5kms north of Monasterevin, between the canal and the Barrow and the Bracknagh (L102) and Rathangan (R414) roads – to inform them of their plan.
The five turbines planned for this location would cost in the region of €30m, and be able to provide 25 megawatts of electricity a year, enough to power 17,000 homes or almost a quarter (23%) of the occupied properties in the whole of Kildare.
Spokesperson for the local opposition Mary Fanning McCormack said residents were shocked by the letter,, with one going so far as to call it “disgusting” because it arrived on the Bank Holiday Friday (1 May) during a pandemic.
Originally, the Statcraft hope was for seven of the 169m high turbines, but they have amended this proposal to five, and have proposed that they be sited such that the nearest property is more than two-thirds of a kilometer (680m) away. There are 12 houses within 800m and 53 properties within a kilometer radius of the proposed location.
“We’ve changed our consultation approach, and it’s not just us, it’s everybody [in renewable energy],” said Pat O’Sullivan, a spokesperson for Statcraft.
“We decided to call personally to houses and talk to people rather than host a big meeting to give them context on what we’re trying to do, and provide good, proper, accurate information,” he added.
“Obviously, we can’t do that now because of the lockdown, so we sent out the information brochure,” he pointed out.
“What we have been working towards [for a planning application] would be some time in Q3, 2020 but that may well change because of these unique circumstances,” he admitted.
However, Ms Fanning-McCormack had a differing view.
“They snuck the letter in on a Bank Holiday Friday. I’ve looked them up and they’ve been run out of north Kildare, and Laois and Offaly,” she said.
“The canal bank is a protected area where I get my solace. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote his poetry on our farm, and Larry McCormack [her husband] has bred a Group 1 winner here,” she pointed out.
“We’ve raised five children here, and I would be very anxious about our health. The nature of these wind farms is to get people to move out. It happened in Canada,” she claimed.
“The heritage and conservation here is very deep,” she said, and name-checked the recently approved €4.5m Blueway along the canal, as well as the €50m plan to open a distillery and visitors centre at nearby Ballykelly Mills.
“They’re [Paddy McKillen and Bono] going to create 28 jobs, and this recognises the heritage of the area,” she said, pointing out that Ballykelly made whiskey from 1784 until 1921 at this location.
“This development is completely unsuitable for this unique area of beauty [and] I find it appalling that their plans include the Grand Canal which is under the governance of Inland Waterways who I understand are not aware of this ludicrous proposal,” said Mary.
Waterways Ireland was contacted to comment, but there has been no answer so far.
“There are three thatched cottages in this area and three stud farms, we have a beautiful canal bank with the impending Blueway and the redevelopment of the Ballykelly Mill this is going to open up the area to tourists,” she added.
“I walk the canal bank regularly, it is a special area of conservation, steeped in history and anything interfering with this would be nothing short of disgraceful,” she said.
Ms Fanning said she would be fighting this plan at every stage and every level and further added that she hoped local politicians would get behind the residents to conserve this area of rural beauty.
“After Covid-19 we will form a committee and run these people out…for an area that has stood the test of time,” she added.
“A quality of life with encouraging tourist potential with the proposed development of the Blueway and Ballykelly mill, a wind farm is not a runner,” she concluded.
Last year wind energy accounted for a third (33%) of all Irish electricity, saving €432m in imported fossil fuels.
On 43 days it was able to supply up to two-thirds (66%) of our requirements, and for two months of the year it provided more electricity than gas.