By Finian Coghlan
“THOSE photos rocked me to my core. These are like something from Mars, from outer space,” said Mary Fanning, a spokesperson for the Monasterevin Rathangan Wind Awareness Group (MRWA) on the photomontages of the five 169m turbines planned for Ummeras Bog, between Monasterevin and Rathangan.
“Statkraft are not fit for purpose…In five years time people will wonder how did the rape of this place happen?” she said, in the week that public consultation on the application closed.
“This is in the wrong place, and they have failed miserably in the consultation process,” she said of the efforts of the power company to inform locals.
The five 169m high 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.
Originally, the Statcraft plan was for seven of these turbines, but they have amended this to five, and have sited them 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.
A decision on the wind farm is expected by 18 March, and almost 100 submissions have been received by the Planning Department by the deadline this week (25 February), including from the Department of Tourism, Kildare Fàilte and the Department of Defence.
Ms Fanning pointed at the recent investment around Monasterevin – “to regenerate a town that has been ignored for years” – with the development of the Ballykelly Mill Distillery, and the Blueway along the Grand Canal.
“People come for the peace and quiet, not to look at those monstrosities,” she said.
“I would have liked to have had the respect of consultation from a multi-million dollar conglomeration,” she added.
However, this has been contested by Statkraft, who says it “ is continuing to consult extensively with all those living in the vicinity of the proposed Ummeras wind farm”.
“This intensive programme of work began in March 2020 and while disrupted due to Covid restrictions, an online virtual consultation platform has recently gone live,” said a company spokesperson.
“All 180 households living within 1.7km of the five proposed sites have been either visited or had information posted to them – since calling door-to-door was duly rendered impossible due to Covid,” he said.
However, Ms Fanning believes that Statkraft “have failed miserably in consultation” and that they “have no regard for biodiversity on the bog” that includes lapwing, curlew and hen harrier species.
“Wind turbines have been identified as one of the greatest threats to these three species, [and] they should be located away from where rare birds have been found as these are an important part of our heritage,” said Mary Fanning.
She was also critical of the firm’s promise of €150,000 each year to a community fund, saying “we don’t want it”, as well as of the two private landowners who have agreed a turbine on their property which she described as “greed, greed, greed”.
Ms Fanning also claimed that “people got an awful shock when they saw the Monasterevin pictures” which purported to show how the turbines would look from the town, however Statkraft vigorously contested her assertion.
“In the interests of accuracy, we have provided an actual ‘photomontage viewer’ of how the five turbines would look within the local landscape from various local viewpoints,” said the spokesperson.
“This truthful representation of the proposed wind farm can also be accessed through the consultation platform on the homepage of our project website,” he said.
“The Statkraft team are available both online and by telephone at all times and have engaged with hundreds of people as well as managing a large number of queries and requests for information in the last 11 months.
“Among the outcomes have been a new approach on traffic management which would see restrictions on construction traffic in certain areas in line with local feedback.
“Ideas have been sought on the best possible use of a Community Benefit Fund which would be worth in excess of €150,000 per year to the local area.
“Among the proposals suggested by locals thus far, include improvements to broadband, development of an energy efficiency scheme, support for a men’s shed and a local community garden initiative.
“Statkraft also supported a ‘Meals on Wheels’ initiative in the immediate area during the early days of the pandemic,” the company stated.
Ms Fanning contradicted this, saying their “issued statement is crass”.
“They said the dealt with ‘Meals on Wheels’. Who do they think we are, living in the 50s and dancing at the crossroads? I find it a gross insult,” she said.