THE ESB HAS discovered that acting as a law unto themselve’s doesn’t pay and has finally said it will decommission the 70-turbine Derrybrien 850 acre wind farm in Co Galway that has cost the State millions in fines over lack of compliance with EU environmental legislation.
From its very beginning in 2003 the Derrybrien wind farm located on the Slieve Aughty mountains has been mired in controversy following a huge construction induced mudslide that killed 50 thousand wild brown trout and engulfed a large swathe of forestry and farmland and leaving miles of devastation in its track.
The 59.5MW project finally ceased operating in February, following An Bord Pleanala’s refusal to grant ‘substitute consent’ for the wind farms continuation. The 70-turbine wind farm cost €60 million to build and was one of the State’s largest onshore wind farm energy projects when commissioned in 2006. By the time the debacle is finally cleared up it will have cost the state in the region of €100 million in tax payer’s money.
It was a big project
The 59.5MW Derrybrien wind farm project comprised of 70 Vestas V52 turbines and has been operational since 2006. The V52 wind turbine is a product of Vestas Wind Systems A/S, a Danish manufacturer. The rated power of Vestas V52 is 850,00 kW. At a wind speed of 4,0 m/s, the wind turbine starts its work. The cut-out wind speed is 25,0 m/s. The wind farm closure decision comes after An Bord Pleanala denied retrospective or substitute planning permission to the ESB for the development. An Bord Pleanála cited “significant effects on environment” with “permanent residual effects that cannot be fully mitigated” in its reasoning for its decision to refuse retrospective planning approval.
The Doomed Application
The application to An Bord Pleanala was a ‘doomed to failure’ last ditch defiant effort to save the controversial project following an EU Court of Justice ruling that Ireland had breached environmental regulations in relation to the projects construction.
- The EU Court of Justice ruling was a superior ruling to any subsequent Bord Pleanala ruling to the contrary. Therefore the application to An Board Pleanala was nothing more than an act of defiant arrogance.
- Furthermore the Supreme Court had already ruled that substitute consent is invalid under EU environmental law, because it lacks several key factors that a proper Environmental Impact Assessment must include, such as public participation allowing key stakeholders to input into the process.
The ESB was using every means at its disposal including the two above not at its disposal of avoiding the issue rather than fulfilling their environmental obligations. It actions were devoid of all sense of reasoning.
Close it Down
Following a lot of huffing and puffing that failed to turn any wind turbine blades and long overdue careful consideration – meaning pressure from everybody from environmentalists to the courts, to the government to the EU – the ESB has finally thrown in the towel and decided to decommission the disastrously problematic Derrybrien wind farm. Even the Tánaiste Leo Varadkar had slammed the ESB over the Derrybrien, South Galway Wind Farm debacle.
ESB Ignores Court Rulings and Sanity
The ESB ignored the court ruling and the State had to pay. State inaction on the initial EU Court of Justice ruling resulted in a fine of €5m followed by daily non compliance penalty fines of €15,000 that continued since 2019 accumulating to over €17m until finally the ESB were forced into the shut down decision. €17 million of taxpayer’s money has been paid to the EU to date because the ESB thought they could brazen it out with the EU the way they might and often did with the Irish Government.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in response to a question from Deputy Ciaran Cannon asking how long Ireland will continue to pay these daily fines stated that the ESB has “not covered itself in glory” over the lengthy saga. He further stated that the ESB may be forced to demolish the wind farm, but a decision must be made. What he failed to say was that the State hadn’t covered itself in glory either in their failure to stop the State owned ESB squandering tax payer’s money.
Decommissioning Costs and ESB Sensitivity
The inevitable decommissioning of the project will require the engagement of specialist contractors at further expense. Presently no cost can be confirmed due to commercial sensitivities, an ESB spokesman said. The sensitivity levels concerning the release of this cost must be off the Richter scale as must be the actual decommissioning costs. But to hell with ESB sensitivities, commercial or otherwise it’s tax payer’s money that a State owned company is spending and we must have accountability.
Heads should be rolling at the decision level of the ESB concerning the whole series of poor decision making in relation to this hole in the ground that the ESB decision makers just keep pouring money into. The decommissioning of the project should be taken out of the repeatedly and recklessly incompetent money squandering hands of the ESB. No corporate board of directors could justify such actions as the ESB’s to their shareholders unless of course the only shareholder is the government.
The Mainstream Medias Dismal Failure
The Derrybrien Wind Farm Scandal has been going on since its construction disaster in 2003.
At the time of its commissioning it was one of the largest and costliest of its type Europe. It was a massive exercise in Green Environmental virtue signalling. From its initial construction in 2003 controversy and disaster quickly dogged the project.
Construction of the wind farm included the removal of large areas of forest and the extraction of soggy peat on the incline of the Cashlaundrumlahan mountainside resulting in an “environmentally devastating landslide” in 2003, according to the court in 2008. The site was thoroughly unsuitable for such a project and all the civil engineering in the world wasn’t going to make it otherwise. Locating a wind farm on that site was an act of stupidity and madness that could only have been driven by greed.
From the beginning the project was dogged with environmental controversy. The media kept quite. Because of the ESB’s failure to deal with the sites environmental problems increasingly adverse rulings came from the courts including the European Court of Justice. The media murmured. The ESB continued ploughing tax payer’s money into the increasingly unstable boggy hole on the side of a mountain. The media who are supposed to be guardians of the public interest looked the other way.
The failure of the media to alert the public to a growing enormous financial and environmental scandal contributed hugely to the ESB feeling that they weren’t answerable to anyone as they squandered tax payer’s money at obscene rates. Shame on the complicit media. They repeatedly ignore State and corporate malpractice and criminality in fear of losing advertising revenue. Large corporations use corporate advertising as a form of reverse blackmail by holding the threat of withdrawing their advertising if the media publish anything displeasing to the advertiser. The result is that the media have completely surrendered and sold out. They are now part of the problem as demonstrated by their failure to highlight this ESB scandal.
ESB will now prepare for the decommissioning of the 70 wind turbines in accordance with planning laws and regulations.