SOME farmers in West Cork have expressed annoyance at the lack of progress with windfarms, claiming the sale of licences has become nothing but a money spinner.
One landowner, Joseph Cahalane of Dromgarriffe East, Ballinascarthy, told The Southern Star that he began researching windfarms in the early 2000s and approached several developers to see what they had to offer.
He said he submitted an application to Cork County Council for a wind monitoring mast in June 2000 and it was refused in April 2001.
However, in 2003, he, and another landowner, entered into a preliminary agreement with a company and that company erected its own wind monitoring mast.
For more than four years, he said he carried out unpaid work by taking wind readings from the monitoring mast every 56 days for the company.
He said the information he gathered could have been used to establish the suitability of the site as a location for a wind farm, but he is no longer doing it and the mast has since been removed.
In June 2005, he said an application for a grid connection was lodged by the developer and he signed ‘an option to lease’ document in 2006.
He said the grid was approved in August 2008 and the following year the developer met some of the landowners and offered €5,000 per turbine but he – and a few more landowners who subsequently came on board – believed €15,000 per turbine was a more realistic figure.
‘The licence for the grid was “sold on” in February 2009,’ said Joseph, ‘and the developer made a lot of money but we got nothing out of it, only costs.
‘Windfarms were sold to the farming community as a great idea to earn extra income, but we are 10 years down the line and nothing has happened. We are very annoyed,’ he added. ‘To my mind, this looks like a quick way of making money. It’s ruthless. A lot of farmers throughout the country have entered into contracts but nothing has materialised.’
Aside from the time he has invested in a potential windfarm, Joseph Cahalane said he has incurred enormous costs, which he estimated at €15,000 for applications, administration and legal fees.
Harold Kingston, Munster chair of the IFA, said he could not comment on a specific proposal but he did acknowledge that ‘a lot of bad deals had been made in the early days, which put landowners in an impossible situation.’
He said the IFA has since established a template that protects landowners by putting proper terms and conditions into any agreement that a landowner may make with a developer.
‘We are looking at significant challenges in relation to climate action,’ he added. ‘The IFA would like to see farmers get involved in producing renewable energy, but in order to do this successfully the government needs to put policy in place.
‘The IFA wants to encourage and support landowners, local communities and small businesses to get involved in the production of wind and solar power.’