As part of the review of the 2006 Wind Energy Planning Guidelines, Ministers Simon Coveney and Denis Naughton recently announced details of their preferred draft approach which is set out in full below. It is anticipated these new draft guidelines
The key aspects of the proposed approach are:
§ the application of a more stringent noise limit, consistent with World Health Organisation standards, in tandem with a new robust noise monitoring regime, to ensure compliance with noise standards;
§ a visual amenity setback of 4 times the turbine height between a wind turbine and the nearest residential property, subject to a mandatory minimum distance of 500 metres;
§ the elimination of shadow flicker; and
§ the introduction of new obligations in relation to engagement with local communities by wind farm developers along with the provision of community benefit measures.
In line with requirements under the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive (the SEA Directive), an SEA will be undertaken on the proposed approach to the revised Guidelines. The SEA process ensures that environmental considerations are fully integrated in the preparation of plans and programmes, which provide a framework for development consent or planning permission.
Review of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006
Summary of Key Aspects of “Preferred Draft Approach”
The proposed new robust noise restriction limits are consistent with World Health Organisation standards, proposing a relative rated noise limit of 5dB(A) above existing background noise within the range of 35 to 43dB(A) for both day and night, with 43dB(A) being the maximum noise limit permitted. The rated limit will take account of certain noise characteristics specific to wind turbines (e.g. tonal, low frequency and amplitude modulation) and, where identified, the noise limit permitted will be further reduced to mitigate for these noise characteristics. These limits will be conditioned as part of the planning permission process.
The new noise limits are being proposed in tandem with the introduction of a new noise monitoring regime in relation to wind farms. Local authorities will enforce the noise limits as conditioned in the planning permission, in conjunction with the Environmental Protection Agency who will provide independent noise monitoring of wind farms. It is proposed that where there is evidence of non-compliance with noise limits, wind turbines will be required to be turned off until compliance with the noise limits is proven.
Visual Amenity Setback
It is proposed to introduce a setback distance of 4 times the tip height between a wind turbine and the curtilage of a residential property, subject to a mandatory minimum setback of 500 metres. These setback requirements are for visual amenity purposes but it will simultaneously be required in all cases that the noise limits outlined must be complied with.
The proposed approach provides for the elimination of shadow flicker through technology and appropriate modelling at design stage and provide that wind turbines will turn off automatically to eliminate any shadow flicker arising.
Consultation Obligations on Developers
The proposals will require developers to have early and constructive consultation with communities on proposed wind farm developments before a planning application is made. In this regard, a Community Report will be required to be submitted with a planning application, outlining how the final proposal was shaped in response to those consultations.
Community dividend (or benefit) will be a core component of future wind farm development. This may encompass a range of measures and will vary according to the nature and scale of a project. However, it is proposed that developers will need to offer a form of community dividend that will ensure the project will be of enduring economic benefit to the communities concerned.
It is proposed, from a visual amenity aspect, that connections from wind farms to the national electricity grid will, except where ground conditions prevent it, in the future be underground.
Good Practice for Wind Energy Development Guidelines
The proposed approach will be further supported by the “Good Practice for Wind Energy Development Guidelines” issued by the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in December 2016 for the wind industry. See full document on the following link: