The minister rejects calls to restart Derrybrien wind farm despite claims it can meet 1 per cent of the state’s energy needs

A JUNIOR minister has rejected calls to restart the 70-turbine wind farm at Derrybrien in South Galway.

na Dáil debate on the issue, Minister of State at the Department for Transport Hildegarde Naughton called the ESB wind farm an “unauthorised development”.

Secretary Naughton told independent TD Michael McNamara that “any attempt to keep the wind farm operational would therefore be unlawful”.

She added: “There is no legal basis for Derrybria to continue operating.”

In February, ESB ceased operating the wind farm after An Bord Pleanála refused a subsequent building permit for the project.

The request came after a ruling by the EU Court of Justice found Ireland had built in breach of environmental regulations.

The 70-turbine wind farm, which cost 60 million euros to build, was one of the largest onshore wind farms when it became operational in 2006.

It provided about 1 percent of the country’s electricity needs and is one of 26 onshore wind farms operated by ESB and its subsidiaries.

However, it has been the subject of controversy since a landslide during construction in 2003 killed thousands of fish and engulfed forest and farmland.

On March 16 of this year, ESB confirmed its decision to permanently close the Derrybrien wind farm and shut down the renewable energy project.

Minister Naughton said it was very important in terms of complying with EU law that “immediate steps are taken to ensure that the plant is shut down as soon as possible”.

She added: “The cessation of the unauthorized wind farm should be a key factor in trying to end Ireland’s obligation to pay significant daily fines to the European Commission.”

The state has already been fined a lump sum of €5 million related to infringement cases and further fines of €15,000 a day until the terms of the judgment are met.

Minister Naughton said: “The An Bord Pleanála decision and the ESB’s approval of that decision and its stated intention to shut down Derrybria brings the State into line with the original judgement.”

She explained that all the implications of the closure of the Derrybrien wind farm had been taken into account.

“There are only limited global and European energy policy arguments for continuing to operate Derrybria,” said the minister.

“From the point of view of domestic security of supply, there are no valid arguments to be made. Attempts to keep the wind farm in operation encounter planning and legal hurdles.”

Mr McNamara, a TD for Clare, said he found it “somewhat surprising that the conclusion that there are no valid arguments regarding the safety of home supplies given that on a good day Derrybria has at least 1 per cent of the Energy supplies needs of the state in times of energy crisis”.

Speaking in a Dáil debate on the issue proposed by MP McNamara, he said: “Nobody is proposing that those who break environmental norms be rewarded, rather that the state should not be penalized.

“There is a real risk and concern in the community that by attempting to decommission we will cause more damage commensurate with the damage already done.”

Deputy McNamara suggested that ownership of the wind farm could be transferred to a local authority to submit a new application with the express promise that any profits made from this development would go back into protecting Slieve’s environment flow.

He said: “What I propose is that another attempt be made to bring Derrybria into line with European Union law. Perhaps a better application should be made to mitigate the very negative impact of what happened.” The minister rejects calls to restart Derrybrien wind farm despite claims it can meet 1 per cent of the state’s energy needs

Fry Electronics Team

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