Written Answers. - Alternative Energy Projects.

John Gormley

Question:

75 Mr. Gormley asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources his views on whether, in regard to the potential development of a wind farm in Derrybrien, County Galway, under the AER V project, there should be a replanting obligation imposed on the developer as a condition of the felling licence in this case; the methods by which such a replanting obligation would have to be carried out; and the reasons for its imposition. [10858/03]

In the context of developing the forestry sector and ensuring that forest cover is increased, it is the policy of my Department to impose replanting obligations to ensure the sustainability of the national forest estate. Also, I am supportive of efforts to develop wind farms as a source of energy. It is necessary for me, therefore, to balance these important policy directions.

Following consultations between the renewable energy division and the forest service of my Department, I have now approved revised arrangements for the consideration by my Department of applications for the construction of wind farms on forestry sites. These arrangements will provide the necessary certainty for wind farm developers while respecting forestry principles. Importantly, they will not involve additional cost for the wind farm developer.

Under the new arrangements the landowner will, on receipt of an expression from a wind farm developer, submit an application for a limited felling licence. The forest service, in accordance with section 37 of the Forestry Act 1946, will con sider applications on a case-by-case basis. The conditions of the licence may be varied, for example, the replanting obligation might apply to other land or the area to be replanted might be reduced to take account of the original site conditions and productivity of crop.
The purchaser would in such circumstances secure the site for the wind farm and a newly planted forest, which may be disposed of or retained by him as appropriate. The purchase price for the site should reflect the additional cost of purchasing and planting an alternative site borne by the purchaser. On the other hand, as Minister I am empowered to impose a levy equivalent to the cost of replanting. This option may be availed of by a developer as an alternative to the purchasing and planting of another site.