Solar farm for Curraghduff and Mothel draws opposition

Eoghan Dalton Reports

An overwhelming majority of attendees at a public meeting declared their opposition last week to a solar farm development in the north Co Waterford area.
Planning has been submitted by BNRGN Mothel Ltd for a development consisting of a total of 195,000 square metres, or 48 acres, at two sites in the townlands of Curraghduff and Mothel.
There was standing room only as locals gathered in Clonea Power village hall to listen to hear the development’s scale outlined by Curraghduff native Vincent Kelly.

The larger development is to be comprised of photovoltaic panels on steel frames on an area of approximately 145,000 square meters (35 acres), up to 24 battery storage containers and up to four inverter/transformer stations. It will be situated in Curraghduff.
If planning is granted the Mothel development would be comprised of photovoltaic panels on ground mounted steel frames on an area of approximately 50,000 square meters (over 12 acres). The solar farm would have a 30 year operational life. A show of hands in the hall made clear that almost all were in favour of opposing the development, while, later in the meeting, two people were nominated to approach the two private landowners who have agreed to allow the company proceed with the farm on their land. “The development is quite a large scale solar farm, the two farms are going to be interlinked by a cable,” said Vincent Kelly.
An information meeting was held last summer in the Carraig Hotel, however Kelly said that people who weren’t living within 200m of the perimeter were not informed.

“A lot of people didn’t actually know about the meeting and still even as late as this week people living within 500m didn’t know about the solar farm,” he said to this newspaper.
Cllr Ray Murphy (FF) told the room that it was critical that a campaign against the development goes beyond the locals gathered on the night. “It needs to be a Comeragh issue,” he said. “A lot of money has been invested into tourism for the county and this needs to be approached at from that angle.”

Scenic impact

He said that since 13 out of 14 solar developments have been granted planning permission so far in the locality, any objections would need to be focused on the local consequences od the development, such as its scenic impact. Vincent Kelly also cited this when outlining his concerns. While the solar panels will be about eight feet in height, a chain link fence measuring a number of feet higher will surround the panels to provide security. This, he feels, will be an ugly sight for the area: “It’s industrialising a rural area that has very scenic views. People would know it when you come out of Carrick-on-Suir, you come out about four miles and the actual Comeragh Mountains expanse opens out in front of you.” The room received reassurance from local Councillor Seanie Power (FG) that the landowners who are letting the company develop on their property are “reasonable people” who would be happy to listen to concerns. Local Election candidate for the Portlaw-Kilmacthomas area, Anne Troy (Ind) addressed the room on her past experience opposing green energy developments including as part of the Mahon Valley Against Turbines group. She said the commercial nature of the development is a key issue, and existing companies should be encouraged to develop the green energy, pointing to examples including Flahavan’s outside Kilmacthomas and O’Shea Farms in Piltown.

Community ownership
“We have had no Government update whatsoever on Green Energy Guidelines since 2012, despite huge changes in the Industry,” said Ms Troy. Speaking to this paper in recent days, Waterford Green Party chairman Marc Ó Cathasaigh said his party share concerns around solar developments. He said the Greens have pushed for greater community ownership and stakeholding in renewable energy developments, “so that people have ownership of the energy projects happening in their communities, rather than it being handed over to large utility companies”. “It’s also our policy that we want to see much more microgeneration, and placement of solar on agricultural buildings especially, where they will not even be noticed. However, we have to recognise that medium to large scale solar is going to have to be a part of the energy mix if we’re to decarbonise our economy.”Ó Cathasaigh, who is standing for election next month in Tramore/City West, continued: “(Solar farms) can also provide hard-pressed farmers with good returns from their land, particularly here in the South East, where we have an excellent solar resource. There’s also a real opportunity for high-quality job creation in our local rural communities. However, he said that a land use plan should be formed so that solar farms aren’t developed on “an ad hoc basis” as they currently are.

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