Article first published in:
Wicklow Mountain Views – The Newsletter of the Wicklow Uplands Council.
Issue No. 30 – Summer 2019
Wind Energy In the Uplands
Wicklow must be smart in addressing climate change and protecting its priceless landscape. Climate change is real, it is happening, and humanities rapid industrialisation and reliance on fossil fuels over the last 200 years is having a dramatic negative effect on our planet and the flora and fauna that live on it. This is a fact, it cannot be disputed, and all of us living in Wicklow must play a part in addressing it.
It is the proposed matrix of solutions that must be studied in depth. Kneejerk and the temptation to reach for the “easiest” response, will produce counterproductive results and will also ensure that climate change adaptation and mitigation policies are rejected by local communities in Wicklow.
The Wicklow and Dublin uplands is a spectacular landscape and is a unique resource in terms of biodiversity, exceptional rural topography and an educational and outdoor recreational environment on the east coast of Ireland. As a native of this landscape, I am conscious of the caretaker role we have to protect the Wicklow Hills and the communities that have lived there for generations. Local farmers, landowners and villages have worked in partnership with this landscape and have ensured that this priceless environmental resource is protected.
Renewable energy is a significant part of every county’s response to climate change. All of us in Wicklow must play our part. However, to concentrate on excessive industrial onshore windfarming at the expense of a broad portfolio of renewables located Countywide, will serve to only pollute our upland environment instead of protecting it.
Rural South Wicklow is the only location at present where industrial onshore windfarming takes place. There are plans to develop additional industrial onshore windfarming in this area. These plans have been totally rejected by local communities and indeed by Wicklow County Council on two occasions. The developments have divided local communities and created discord and climate change denial amongst people who have protected and farmed this landscape for generations.
To turn a rural upland landscape into an industrialised landscape is not the way to address our commitment to a renewable energy future. To turn local communities against climate change measures is a serious mistake and is counterproductive to our need to build a greener Wicklow.
Offshore Windfarming and Photovoltaic (solar) energy are viable alternatives to onshore industrial wind. Wicklow needs to be flexible and smart in its commitment to renewable energy provision. Both offshore windfarming and solar generation are far less impactful on the unique biodiversity of the Wicklow uplands than the current drive for industrial onshore turbines.
The battle to address man-made climate change will involve a response from every man, woman and child in Wicklow. We need the active support and involvement of every community, landowner, farmer, business and visitor in order to respond to the climate emergency. We will not do that by railroading measures through that benefit the few over the needs of the many.
Micro-generation in wind and solar throughout Wicklow is an alternative model of renewable energy generation that will provide community buy-in with minimal to no environmental impact. The proposed offshore Windfarm between Arklow and Wicklow Towns could generate a response greater than several counties alone.
We cannot destroy our precious landscape in order to provide quick-fix solutions. Wicklow can be a model of environmental and climate change protection measures, if we are smart, if we work together, and if we have a broad portfolio of responses that all can be involved in. The technologies and variety of renewable energy generation are changing rapidly in response to the nature of the climate change crisis and the innovation inherent amongst our scientific and engineering communities.
The next County Development Plan which will begin a consultation process shortly, must take cognisance of the mistakes that have been made so far in our climate change response. The plan must stand up to powerful vested interests to ensure that the unique partnership between local communities and the Wicklow landscape that we all love and want to protect, is handed to the next generation intact and contributes to a greener Wicklow for all who live, work and visit here.
WUC Board Member
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