AROUND 100 concerned locals attended a public meeting in Stradbally last week to hear of plans to construct Ireland’s largest solar farm.Highfield Solar Ltd. has submitted a planning application to Waterford City & County Council for a 270-acre solar farm in the townlands of Rathnaskillogue, Glen East, Glen West and Curaheen. Breda Kiely from ‘Neighbours Concerned about Solar Farms’ addressed the large gathering at the Barron Hall in Stradbally on Friday evening last. “We’re nestled between the Greenway, the Copper Coast UNESCO Global Geopark, and Stradbally which has won a silver medal in the Tidy Towns competition on numerous occasions,” she said.
“I have lived in this area my whole life. I do not need to be looking at this in our beautiful scenic area.” She says many people are “terrified” and went on to outline the concerns of her 92-year-old father who says the solar farm would “completely industrialise our landscape”.
“I know that people would turn in their graves at the thought of this happening,” she said.
Breda said the project would have a detrimental impact on tourism in the area which has flourished since the opening of the Waterford Greenway.
“People will not want to see our area destroyed when they visit the Greenway,” she said.
The impact of glint and glare was discussed in detail.Highfield Solar commissioned its own internal glare report which identified over 100 homes which will suffer varying quantities of glare during long and protracted periods for up to six months of any given year. “It’s quite frightening. Some of these people will not have any comfort,” said Breda.
Other physical and mental health issues were also examined by Dr Graham Roberts who briefed the audience on a range of issues. The devaluation of local homes is an issue which has also generated significant concern. Information was provided on the submission process – with Breda Kiely urging all in attendance to make their voices heard. “Our communities are not for sale,” she said.
“Either we wake up now or we will industrialise our rural communities and everyone will be sorry down the line.”A Pre-Application Consultation Request to construct a new 110Kv substation, which was lodged with An Bord Pleanála, was deemed a ‘Strategic Infrastructure Development’ by the planning body earlier this year.Concerns are growing that the proposed project may be expanded in the future. At Friday’s meeting, community activist Kieran Hartley pointed out that Highfield Solar have applied for 95 megawatts. As the 270-acre solar farm equates to 50 megawatts, he says this means there is potential for the development of wind farms on the site in the future.
“The standard industry rule equates to five acres of land required to generate 1Mw of electricity, meaning Highfield have the capacity to construct a 500-acre solar farm or windfarm if they so desire,” he explained. Concerns were also expressed at Friday’s meeting over the lack of information provided at the public meeting which was staged by Highfield Solar at the Rainbow Hall in Kilmacthomas earlier this year. Many of those who attended that meeting said there had been a lack of clarity on issues and a lack of publicity surrounding the meeting which meant some residents who may be impacted by the proposal were unable to attend.
Vincent Kelly of the Mothel Curraghduff Solar Farm Action Group attend Friday’s meeting and outlined his experiences of campaigning against a controversial 30 megawatt solar farm in his local area. He explained that planning permission has been granted for the project despite numerous concerns being raised. Submissions made in relation to the project have been “ignored” according to campaigners.