11.5.2. Wind Energy Development Strategy
The National Climate Action Plan (CAP) 2019 has set out an ambitious 70% target for renewable energy production out to 2030. To meet this target, the amount of electricity generated from renewables will have to be doubled on current figures.
The Wind Energy Development Strategy is a strategic document and at that level it is appropriate to apply high level assumptions. However, from our experience with developing wind energy projects and the associated detailed environmental reports and assessments that are required, it is evident that often areas that have been identified at a high level as not being suitable for wind energy development would benefit at a site specific level from the same characteristics as an area considered suitable. This is also evident in the reverse. In this context, careful consideration needs to be given to the zoning of areas for renewable energy development going forward, so as not to constrain out any areas which may have renewable energy potential, particularly for wind generation. Such an approach will assist developers in bringing projects forward to contribute towards the 70% target for renewable energy production out to 2030.
Section 4.1 of the Wind Energy Development Strategy addresses wind speeds and makes reference to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) Wind Atlas 2013. It is our view, given advances in turbine technologies over recent years, that the SEAI Wind Atlas or any similar general wind resource data should not be used as a constraint for zoning areas for renewable energy development. This is a constraint that should be assessed on a project by project basis. As technologies have advanced, turbines have been developed which can yield the same energy from lower wind sites than their older counter parts.
On a similar note, we also request that in parallel with the development of a Renewable Energy Strategy, that the Council reviews the Landscape Character Assessment for the County to ensure a consistent approach to the determination of lands that are suitable for the development of wind energy projects in the County. This parallel review will result in greater clarity regarding the suitability of lands for wind energy development and will assist developers eliminate uncertainty at project inception stage.