What is the ESB’s bog standard when it comes to building wind farms? I asked this on reading the advertorial ‘ESB outlines how harnessing Ireland’s wind potential is key to the transition to a clean energy future’ which I read in the Sunday Times last week 08/11/2020.
Tragically for the residents of Donegal and Tyrone during the week, it would seem the glossy advertising of wind farms as a clean ecological source of sustainable energy is simply hot air. During the week, hundreds of thousands of tonnes of liquified peat and many conifer trees were washed into the Mourne Beg river on the Donegal/Tyrone border. It has heavily polluted the River Derg and will no doubt damage the precious trout and salmon fishery which I had the pleasure of fishing this summer (enticed 3, landed none, thanks for asking).
This bog slide occurred in an area in which construction is underway for the Meenbog wind farm which according to the Irish News, “is owned by global retail giant Amazon, which aims to have the site operational by 2022.” It’s always big operators who benefit from wind farms, not the local community or consumers.
The threat of peat slides from wind farms is well-established – indeed in 2003 a major peat slide was triggered by the construction of a wind farm in Derrybrien, County Galway. A landslide in dry weather dislodged 450,000 cubic metres of peat which flowed into the Derrywee river, harming the water supply of nearby town Gort and killing about 50,000 fish of all ages and species.
The Irish State was found to be in breach of environmental safeguards during the construction phase of the project. Indeed, no environmental impact assessment had been undertaken before the project was allowed to proceed. On top of the €5 million lump sum fine the State, ie taxpayer had to fork out, Ireland still faces daily fines of €15,000 until the situation is rectified. As of today, the taxpayer has had to fork out over 10 million euro in fines, and it’s not over yet.
Donegal and Galway are not the only counties where a major bog slide has occurred. There have also been large bog slides in Leitrim and Kerry in recent years. All leading to heavily polluted water courses, damaged spawning beds and many dead fish.
After liquified bog slide disasters in 4 counties at a time of wind farm construction, the Irish Freedom Party believe it’s time to suspend the planning approval and erection of new wind farms in order to allow further study and risk assessment of these developments.
Peat bogs have exceptionally high water content and once disturbed peat has a very low shear strength, allowing as we have seen in Ireland, long runout landslides to develop. Let’s look at why: The steel-reinforced concrete bases of wind turbines are large and permanent. Turbines in the 1 to 2 MW range typically use 130 to 240 cubic metres of concrete for the foundation. Pouring hundreds of tonnes of concrete into a peat bog clearly has a damaging and destabilising impact on peat dynamics. Wind turbines are expensive to build, labour intensive to maintain, and harmful to the local environment.
The glass fibre/epoxy resin composite used in turbine blade construction means they cannot be recycled but must instead be cut up and buried in the ground after their 20 year lifespan. Today 2.5 million tonnes of composite material are in use in the wind sector globally. Mike Moore’s Planet of the Humans recently lifted the lid on the huge amount of pollutants used to capture so-called ‘green’ energy. Indeed, landfills in Africa are cynically used by green energy advocates to offload their turbine blades.
As wind turbine blades cannot be recycled, they are an expensive pollutant as well as a noisy, bird-chomping, visual irritant, which blight rural landscapes making them more akin to industrial sites. And do you ever hear Green Party wind advocates tell you how much energy and carbon is used up in the manufacture of the steel, concrete and composites used in wind farm construction? Thought not.
The electricity produced by wind farms is also heavily subsidised, meaning the consumer is forced to pay higher prices. There is a state energy regulator which this year is proposing a huge increase in the levy paid to wind farm operators by consumers. The annual public service obligation (PSO) levy is proposed to go from €34 a year to €96 in 2021, a rise of €62. Yes, you read that correctly, that’s a rise of 184pc. With VAT added in, it’ll come out as €110 a year. That’s a very bitter pill for hard pressed workers who have to run their homes.
The Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) estimates the proposed rise would amount to an increase of €5.22 per month for domestic customers and three times that for commercial users. And this is all on top of more expensive food, milk and heating oil pushing up in price because of the Green Party’s vaunted carbon tax.
To conclude on wind energy, because little wind blows when extensive low pressure systems hang over Ireland in February, wind energy is an intermittent energy source, meaning that the grid must always be backed up 100% of the time by mainly fossil fuel generation sources.
Surrounded by sea, Ireland is better off developing tidal energy as a sustainable energy source. The Irish Freedom Party is all for a clean and green Ireland; we acknowledge and wish to reverse the increase in chemical pollution and overcome the huge loss of biodiversity in Ireland. Yes, we want clean air, healthy food, deer in the forest, mackerel-crowded seas, salmon at the falls etc but environment polluting wind farms are clearly not the answer.
Hermann Kelly, President, Irish Freedom Party