Concerns at British plan to despoil Irish midlands
British and Irish ministers have signed an agreement that could see the world’s largest wind turbines built across the Irish midlands.
Stretching more than 600 feet (180 metres) in the air, the towers are set to generate energy for millions of British homes from 2017.
Environmentalists have described the scheme as “crazy” and posing grave risks to Ireland’s landscape.
Under the plan, a number of British companies are seeking to erect hundreds of wind turbines across the peat bogs of Ireland. The power generated would be transferred to Britain via undersea cables that would join the grid at two points in Wales.
The developers believe the plan would save British consumers around 7 billion pounds sterling over 15 years and prevent any damage to the British landscape.
The turbines needed to provide the power will be of a size and scale not seen in Britain or Ireland before.
Because the bog lands are relatively windless, the company behind the scheme says they will need to stretch high into the sky to catch sufficient wind to generate power.
They will be spread around 40 clusters in five counties.
But opponents say that local people have not been consulted and few actually realise just what an impact the turbines will have on the landscape.
“People don’t actually understand the scale of them,” said Andrew Duncan, an auctioneer and spokesman for the Lakeland Wind Information Group (LWIG), who are opposed to the plan.
LWIG began as a group of residents from the Mullingar area who were concerned about the proposal to build a large scale windfarm overlooking the town.
“Putting up the largest turbines in the world without consultation - I think it is ludicrous, to be honest,” Mr Duncan said.
He said that political opposition to wind energy in Britain is the real reason behind the plan.
“It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem - politically they don’t want turbines on the British countryside, they are under a lot of pressure from the general public over there and it seems they want to impose these wind farms on the Irish general public instead,” he said.
Once the memorandum of understanding has been signed there will a further year of review before a potential treaty is signed.
The 26-County energy minister Pat Rabbitte said that the process was in its infancy and no decisions had been made about how the energy for export would be generated.
“I think there is a mutual interest here for both countries, he said, adding: “Ireland doesn’t want a wind farm at every cross roads; we don’t want that.”
Richard Tol, professor of economics at University of Sussex, said he felt that the whole scheme was “crazy” and would not work in the long term .
“From an Irish perspective this is not selling the family silver; this is giving it away. There is no money staying in Ireland that I can see.
“But from the British perspective it is a good deal,” he said.