THE three TDs in Cork South West have each said they are in favour of offshore wind energy, but each has some reservations.
Michael Collins (Ind) said windfarms have a big role to play in Ireland’s bid to reduce carbon emissions but said ‘good planning policy’ should be in place to limit the numbers of projects.
He said he agreed there should be a 22km exclusion zone from shore, as with other European countries, and added he was confident that the appropriate guidelines would be put in place to protect wildlife during construction.
Deputy Christopher O’Sullivan (FF), himself a whale watching guide, said he would like to see any major offshore windfarm plans accompanied by an in-depth study of the local ecology and the effect on local whale and dolphin populations.
‘We do know that noise pollution has an effect on whales and dolphins but floating windfarms do not have the same level of impact as fixed ones. However, we still need to see proper assessments done, and while wind energy won’t always please everyone, we have targets to meet, so there will need to be a burden share by all parties. What we need is balance.’
He said he hoped the windfarm currently being planned off the Cork coast might be able to use some of the pipeline routes formerly used by the Kinsale gasfield, in order to limit disruption.
‘Given our rising energy needs, we need to take advantage of the renewable opportunities our geography affords us,’ said Social Democrat TD Holly Cairns.
She added that the scale and number of windfarms allowed should be addressed in the forthcoming marine planning framework and through engagement with local communities. ‘We can learn from other countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where there has been substantial and positive implementation of offshore wind,’ she said. ‘In visually sensitive areas, such as along the Wild Atlantic Way, there certainly should be a minimum distance requirement.’
Along visually sensitive coastlines, areas closer to the coast should be reserved for wave energy, which has much less of a visual impact, the deputy suggested. She said we are already seeing this in the pipeline with the recent announcement of the Western Star project proposal by Simply Blue Energy, which aims to deploy a floating wind energy array 35km from the coast, and a wave energy array, 4km from the coast of Co Clare. ‘This should be a model for other projects to follow,’ said Deputy Cairns.
‘The biggest concern I would have with offshore wind is the potential impact associated with pile-driving during installation and potential seismic shootings associated with surveys of the seafloor for data on depth to bedrock,’ she concluded.