The government has ruled out utilising the 70-turbine ESB-owned Derrybrien wind farm in Galway to generate electricity, even despite the ongoing energy crisis.
The windfarm’s operation was ceased earlier this year after the EU’s Court of Justice ruled that Ireland had failed to ensure proper environmental checks were carried out when it was built two decades ago.
This week the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications said Ireland’s Attorney General believes “there is no legal basis for Derrybrien’s continued operation.”
The Department added that all things considered, there are “no substantive arguments” to be made from the perspective of domestic energy security.
The initial decision to decommission the farm was made in March of this year by the ESB.
The turbines were originally built in 2003, without an Environmental Impact Assessment, as Irish planning law did not require it. As a result, while excavating the site, a large landslide occurred, resulting in 450,000 tonnes of peat being disturbed.
This in turn caused about 50,000 fish to die in nearby water sources according to Inland Fisheries Ireland. As a result, Ireland was penalised financially by the EU, amassing a total of €17 million worth of fines to date over ongoing failures to ensure European environmental standards on the windfarm. This culminated in the farm being shut down, and it now lies idle.
However, Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice previously said that it is “criminal” that the wind farm in should lie dormant idle during an energy crisis.
“This site was creating enough electricity to power 50,000 homes until an EU ruling stopped the turbines from spinning,” he wrote.
“In the middle of a global energy crisis, this makes less than no sense.”
The TD said that he was “no lover of wind turbines,” but that they had been functioning and providing power to the area for almost 20 years.
“I have my views on wind farms, I’ve made that very clear. But when something is up and running, and Ireland is at a pinch, you’ve got to use whatever resources you have.”
He continued: “It is criminal that they would be rendered useless by Europe at a time when Ireland faces into a winter of potential rolling blackouts,” adding that it was “bureaucracy and madness” to keep the site closed.
Many local councillors also strongly objected to the move, saying that dismantling the site could lead to further landslides.
“Galway County Council call on the government to direct the ESB to recommence operation of the Derrybrien wind farm and in doing so, provide whatever legislative requirements that are necessary to ensure it may not be legally contested,” they wrote in a statement earlier this year.
“I am receiving numerous calls from constituents who are seeking that the wind turbines in Derrybrien are be turned back on given the energy crisis worldwide,” said local independent councillor Geraldine Donohue, as reported by the Connacht Tribune.
Councillors want ESB to keep Derrybrien windfarm running – https://t.co/7Lsgsh8w9n to-keep-derrybrien-windfarm-running/
— Connacht/CityTribune (@CTribune) April 30, 2022