In March 2021 we issued Newsletter #1 to local residents in North Leitrim, which raised a number of queries and observations regarding the proposed wind farm development. In response, the community liaison team has compiled this Frequently Asked Questions document, which answers all queries received to date. We understand that this might not cover all of your questions. If this is the case, we would like to arrange a call with you at a time of your convenience to discuss the project and any particular concerns and interests you may have.

1. How can Coillte ensure the impartiality of assessments being undertaken by TOBIN Consulting Engineers on their behalf?
On this project, Coillte has commissioned TOBIN Consulting Engineers to manage the preparation of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) among other assessments and to manage the planning application process. TOBIN is a well-established and much-respected leading Irish engineering consultancy with extensive experience managing environmental assessments and planning applications for wind farms.

Coillte must demonstrate that the EIA Report (EIAR) has been prepared by competent experts to comply with Environmental Impact Assessment legislation and the Habitats Directive. TOBIN and its project team have demonstrated this competency to consenting authorities on many projects over several years in sectors including energy, roads, water, wastewater, waste, dairy, general industry and more. Each specialist assessment within the EIA Report also includes a Statement of Competency for the consultants who undertake them.

Due to the factual nature of environmental data and the role of statutory consultees in the process, there is no question as to the impartiality of TOBIN and its project team in the preparation of the EIA Report and planning application. TOBIN and a comprehensive number of statutory and non-statutory consultees will review the EIA Report, including An Bord Pleanála, Leitrim County Council, National Parks and Wildlife Services, Inland Fisheries Ireland and many more. For further details, please see the EIA Scoping Report on this website.

The EIA Report and all supporting reports, including the Natura Impact Statement under the Habitats Directive, will then be finalised in accordance with best practice guidance and submitted as part of the planning application.

The consenting authority will then evaluate the application with all supporting assessments and carry out its own Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment (AA) before reaching a decision. The EIA and AA processes are undertaken in accordance with EU Directives, which are transposed into Irish planning and environmental legislation. This legislation ensures that these processes are subject to impartial and fully comprehensive assessment by the consenting authority.

2. Who are the consultants providing technical support to Coillte in the preparation of this planning application?
Coillte has appointed a multidisciplinary team with extensive wind farm experience and specialists within each relevant area of expertise. This diagram (left) identifies the consultancies and individual specialists who are providing support to Coillte on the Lissinagroagh Wind Farm project. Each specialist assessment submitted as part of the planning application will include a Statement of Competency for the consultants involved.

3. How far away from the wind farm will this be available to communities and who decides how it is distributed and spent?
One of the positive features of the Government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) is that all successful project applicants are required to set up a Community Benefit Fund that focuses on sharing the economic benefits of a wind farm with the local community.
The exact fund amount will differ from project to project, but it will be a significant financial package that benefits a host community for many years. The calculation of the total fund for any one project depends on the number of turbines and the total production of electricity in any given year. In essence, the Government has mandated that the developer must contribute €2/MWh per year. For example, the value of the fund for a 50 MW project is expected to be approximately €300,000 per annum and available for distribution during the first 15 years of operation.

According to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, the goal is to support local projects in the areas of energy efficiency, climate change initiatives, environmental stability and Near Neighbour payments. There is also funding available for community and sports-themed activities in recreation, health and wellbeing, culture, heritage and tourism. One particular focus is to support local initiatives that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Examples include home and community hall retrofits, pollinator farms, cycling paths, educational materials and scholarships.

During April and May 2021, a public consultation took place to give members of the public the opportunity to share their views on Community Benefit Fund set-up, the processes for decision-making, administration and allocation of funding.
In July 2021, the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications published the “Good Practice Principles Handbook for Community Benefit Funds”, which sets out how the funds should be operated and administered. According to the handbook, community participation is vital for their ultimate success and communities must be at the centre of the decision-making process.

A Fund Committee will be established for all successful RESS projects, consisting of the developer, an administrator and local community representatives. The Committee will be the decision-making body of the Fund and is ultimately responsible for deciding the distance from the wind farm that the funding will cover, how it is distributed and what projects to sponsor.

According to the Handbook, “those citizens who participate can then define what they mean by the community involved and what distance from the RESS project should be appropriate”. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications published the following high-level principles under the Terms and Conditions of RESS-1 (the first RESS auction), which sets out the allocation of funds:
“The Generator or its agent will administer the funds contained in the Community Benefit Fund and shall distribute such funds for the duration of the relevant RESS 1 Project’s RESS 1 Support as follows on an annual basis:
(a) in respect of Onshore Wind RESS 1 Projects, a minimum of €1,000 shall be paid to each household located within a distance of a 1 kilometre radius from the RESS 1 Project;
(b) a minimum of 40% of the funds shall be paid to not-for-profit community enterprises whose primary focus or aim is the promotion of initiatives towards the delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular Goals 4, 7, 11 and 13, including education, energy efficiency, sustainable energy and climate action initiatives;
(c) a maximum of 10% of the funds may be spent on administration. This is to ensure successful outcomes and good governance of the Community Benefit Fund. The Generator may supplement this spend on administration from its own funds should it be deemed necessary to do so; and
(d) the balance of the funds shall be spent on initiatives successful in the annual application process, as proposed by clubs and societies and similar not-for-profit entities, and in respect of Onshore Wind RESS 1 Projects, on “near neighbour payments” for households located outside a distance of 1 kilometre from the RESS 1 Project but within a distance of 2 kilometres from such RESS 1 Project.”

4. How is the tourism sector, which is vital to Leitrim’s economy, going to be affected by the proposed wind farm?
Tourism is one of Ireland’s most important economic sectors. In 2019, overseas tourism generated €5.8 billion for the economy, driven by almost 11.2 million overseas visitors, and helped to support 325,000 jobs.

There is no evidence that the development of wind energy has had a negative impact on tourism in Ireland. Between 2008 and 2017, when the majority of the country’s wind farms were constructed, overseas visitors rose by 21.6 per cent.

Fáilte Ireland has carried out two surveys of visitors to Ireland to determine their views on wind energy. In its most recent study, in 2012, 43 per cent of tourists said wind farms would have no impact on their decision to come to Ireland again. Twenty-eight per cent said the likelihood of seeing wind farms would have a positive impact on their decision to return and 24 per cent said it would have a negative impact. The report also notes that “those interviewed who did not see a wind farm during their trip held more negative perceptions and opinions on wind farms to those that did”.

There has been a great deal of international research on this issue. Scotland is a country of comparable size to Ireland that has a large number of onshore wind farms and also places great emphasis on tourism for its economy. Reports carried out for the Scottish government in 2008 and 2012 found that wind farms have little or no negative impact on tourism there. In 2017, a report by Biggar Economics also found no evidence that Scottish wind farm development “had a detrimental impact on the tourism sector, even at a very local level”.

Finally, there are examples of how wind farms can have a positive impact wind on tourism. More than 500 people a week visit the Mount Lucas Wind Farm Walk and Cycle Park in Co Offaly while Sliabh Bawn Wind Farm in Co Roscommon received more than 30,000 visitors during 2020. In Scotland, Whitelees Wind Farm is one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

The EIA report will include a comprehensive analysis of tourism in Leitrim in the context of Fáilte Ireland’s Guidelines on the Treatment of Tourism in an Environmental Impact Assessment.

Recreation
As part of Coillte wind farm developments, there is an opportunity for this project to include a recreation amenity for the community/tourists as part of the development. For example, at Sliabh Bawn Wind Farm, Coillte has developed waymarked walking/biking trails through the site and to archaeological features, along with a children’s playground and parking all on site.

This is your fund and it is up to local Leitrim people how it is used. We encourage you to come forward and work with the project team to brainstorm ideas that could be designed and implemented as part of this project. Please look at the Sliabh Bawn website as an example of how a rural upland site can be used for wider community recreation benefits.

5. Will the proposed development impact negatively on house and land prices in this area?
The price attached to land or a property at any time is driven by and dependent upon many variables, for example:
• The age, condition, and location of a property
• Its intended use or purpose
• The attractiveness of a location, including the availability of services, access to local amenities and other features a property may have such as energy efficiency, landscaping, security and so on
• The general supply of land and property and the demand for such in an area from the pool of willing sellers and a buyers
• The general market cycle of the economy

For any proposed infrastructure development, consideration is given to the benefits it can bring to that area. In the case of a proposed wind farm development such as Lissinagroagh, there are opportunities for recreation and biodiversity improvements and enhancements, Community Benefit Scheme funding (to improve the energy efficiency status of local housing stock, for example) and Near Neighbour payment contributions.

Based on our assessments we have not identified any peer-reviewed evidence in Ireland that indicates wind farms lower or impact property prices. In other parts of the world, the vast majority of studies indicate that there is no evidence to support the claim that a wind farm has a negative impact on property prices in the local area.
Much of the research data emphasises the specific context of the individual wind farm, which makes engaging with local communities all the more important. The specific location, the quality of the community engagement programme and the level of net community gain in the form of a benefit fund and/or near neighbour scheme in place have been cited as important considerations.

For most of us, the purchase of our family home is the single, largest financial investment we will make in our lives. It is understandable that property owners, on hearing that a wind farm is to be developed in their community, may have concerns about its possible impact on the resale ability or value of their home.
Our community liaison teams explore with the community the appetite for recreation facilities along with other local projects, which helps to increase community gain benefits. This is evident at Mount Lucas Wind Farm, Sliabh Bawn Wind Farm and Galway Wind Park among others.

We are committed to developing a Community Benefit Fund Proposal, including a dedicated Near Neighbour Scheme, along with the potential for a Recreation and Biodiversity Plan to co-exist within the proposed development. The project team welcomes any input from members of the local community to help advance these proposals.

6. How many properties exist within 2km and 5km of the site?
On review of Geodirectory (Eircode) data, we understand that there are up to 150 properties within 2km of the proposed wind turbine locations – which are subject to change as the design evolves – and around 2,000 properties within 5km. All properties within a 2km range will be ground-truthed as part of the EIA reporting process to confirm the location and sensitivity of the dwelling in respect of the proposed wind farm.

7. What employment opportunities arise in the development and operation of a wind farm?
A wind farm project typically provides a wide range of employment, from project initiation and design, through the planning phases to wind farm construction, commissioning and during its operational life. The jobs created by a wind farm vary due to the unique nature of each project, but a broad indication is that two jobs are created for every MW during the construction phase of the project and two to three long-term, high quality technical jobs during the operational phase.
Indirect employment is created through the sub-supply of products and services including:
• Gravel and graded stone for roads and hard stand areas
• Concrete and steel for turbine bases
• Building materials for sub-stations
• Haulage of components from the ports to the site
• Accommodation and food and beverages for workers
• Legal and financial services

Maintenance of wind turbine generators is generally undertaken by the manufacturers, which have operation centres across Ireland. Local companies tend to carry out access road maintenance and other types of operational maintenance such as building maintenance and statutory testing.

8. How will the proposed wind farm ensure that there are no significant cumulative noise impacts at nearby properties when considered in conjunction with the existing Faughery Wind Farm?
We will be undertaking a Noise and Vibration Assessment as part of the EIA. The objective is to determine appropriate limit values and mitigation measures to ensure that any impact is in accordance with respective best practice guidance. The EIA Report will set out the proposed compliance criteria for the consenting authority to consider as part of a future proposed application.

The Lissinagroagh EIA Report will also include a human health assessment, which will consider the following guidance documents:
• Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), Health in Environmental Impact Assessment – A Primer for a Proportionate Approach (2017)
• Institute of Public Health Ireland, Health Impact Assessment (2009)
• US Environmental Protection Agency, Health Impact Assessment Resource and Tool Compilation (September 2016)
• World Health Organisation (WHO), Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region (2018)
• WHO, Night-time Noise Guidelines for Europe (2009)

We are carrying out background noise surveys at a number of locations identified by the noise consultants to determine the present noise environment of the area. This monitoring will continue into November. The collated noise measurement data will then be reviewed, and an assessment carried out to derive the background noise curves and to set the criteria for future wind farm operations.

Our noise consultants will predict wind turbine noise levels to the closest noise sensitive locations, in accordance with appropriate guidance, using noise modelling software. The wind turbine supplier will provide octave band sound power data for the units at all operational wind speeds so that a variety of situations can be assessed in detail within this model.

An assessment of potential cumulative impacts will also be conducted with other operational wind farms, including the neighbouring Faughery wind farm. The equipment is pictured here. Please note: the noise-monitoring equipment continuously measures noise levels over 10-minute intervals – it does not record audio.

 

9. Will this planning application be decided by Leitrim County Council or by An Bord Pleanála?
This depends on whether the wind farm is classified as a Strategic Infrastructure Development (SID). The Study Area has an estimated capacity for up to 18 wind turbines which, based on future technology, could generate 4-6 MW each. The wind farm may therefore have the capacity to generate up to around 100 MW of renewable electricity.

Based on the present scale criteria, this project is likely to be Strategic Infrastructure Development, which means it would be assessed by An Bord Pleanála. We are commencing consultations with An Bord Pleanála in winter 2021 to determine whether this is indeed the case for Lissinagroagh wind farm. We will engage with Leitrim County Council in the normal course as part of development activities and to inform a final proposal.

The Study Area will be refined, and the number and location of turbines will be subject to review, as part of several ongoing processes including community and stakeholder engagement, Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment.

10. There are concerns in relation to peat slides in upland areas and wind farm projects in particular. How is Coillte going to manage this risk?
Peat and landslide movements are very much related to weather and natural events such as intense or heavy rainfall. In circumstances where construction activities are occurring on a site, depending on the conditions, slope failures can occur. We are very aware of this and are adopting a prudent infrastructure layout design approach.

A number of peat slides have occurred in the upland areas of Co Leitrim, but none have been recorded in the proposed wind farm study area to date. The proposed site varies from low to high landslide susceptibility on the Geological Survey of Ireland online database. This information, along with a site-specific Geotechnical and Site Stability Assessment undertaken by experienced geotechnical consultants, will inform a proposed infrastructure layout.

Site walkovers will identify salient features with respect to geotechnics (peat stability and geology) such as extent/depth of peat, geomorphological features, relict failures, rock exposures, wet ground, general soil/rock types. The site walkovers will include direct measurement/recording of:
• Indicative peat shear strength using hand-held vane
• Peat depth probing across the proposed infrastructure envelope on site
• More detailed peat depth probing in areas where deep peat and high-risk areas are identified
• Measurement of slope inclination at infrastructure locations
• Mapping of salient geological features
• Recording of areas at low/medium/high risk of peat instability
• Identification of potential peat storage areas

Consultants will also undertake a site investigation which will include ground probes up to 4m below ground level, trial pits to 3.5m below ground level and ground monitoring water wells completed to 5m. The procedures used for the site investigation are in accordance with Eurocode 7 Part 2: Ground Investigation and testing (ISEN 1997 – 2:2007) and B.S. 5930:2015. The 2017 Scottish Peat Landslide and Hazard assessment best practice guide for proposed electricity generation developments will be used as part of the peat stability assessment.

The Geotechnical and Site Stability Assessment will consider the characteristics of soil and rock encountered on site along with the acceptability of materials for reuse as construction materials for internal roads, hardstanding and crane pads. Stability analysis of the existing site and modelling of the potential impacts of construction activities – temporary and permanent – in terms of site stability will also be completed.

Any constraints identified in the Geotechnical & Site Stability Assessment will be implemented into the design process, and wind turbines and associated infrastructure will only be sited in suitable locations.

11. Walkers regularly use this area, where the scale of the turbines would impact the landscape value. How will Coillte address landscape impacts?
Landscape and visual impact are key considerations of the EIA Report. Sensitive landscape and visual receptors are identified during baseline studies and fieldwork. Assessments within the EIA Report will consider designated scenic routes and views, local community views, centres of population, transport routes, and amenity, heritage and tourism locations. The assessment will be supported by Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) maps, which indicate areas from which the wind farm will be potentially visible in relation to terrain. It will also be supported by at least 30 photomontages, which are photo-realistic depictions of the wind farm superimposed on baseline photography at selected receptor/viewpoint locations.

The landscape and visual assessment will adhere to industry best practice guidelines. In terms of the sensitivity of receptors and the significance of any impact, Coillte will consult with Leitrim County Council to finalise viewpoint receptor locations, which will be considered as part of the visual assessment. We value your input. If there are particular viewpoints or scenic spots that members of the public would like to share with us, please let us know and we can feed this into the landscape architect’s work.

12. The 2006 Wind Energy Guidelines are not representative of current onshore wind energy developments. How is Coillte addressing this in the EIA Report and planning application?
We acknowledge concerns in relation to the 2006 wind farm guidelines. We note that these guidelines are dated, and in this context, in the Lissinagroagh EIA Report we also reference the Draft Revised Wind Energy Development Guidelines (December 2019), which we expect to be finalised before a planning application is submitted. This is currently planned for Q1 2022. In all cases, we are applying conservative environmental assessment assumptions and requirements, which are set out in these guidelines.
In the event that the ‘Final’ Guidelines provide updated environmental assessment requirements, we will consider these and update our EIA Report to reflect any changes.

Project Development Timeline

Mar 2021

Public Launch of Project and Design Iteration 1 Newsletter

Apr 2021

Engagement with local residents starts

Nov 2021

Design Iteration 2 Newsletter distributed and engagement with local residents continues.

Dec 2021

Introduction letter to FuturEnergy Ireland distributed and
engagement with local residents is ongoing.

Mar 2022

Design Iteration 3 Newsletter distributed and engagement with local residents continues.

May 2022

On site surveys are ongoing and engagement continues with local residents.