Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2016: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to regulate wind turbines through providing limits on the exportation of product generated from wind turbines; protecting nearby dwellings from noise and shadow flicker by providing minimum set back distances; allowing access to public consultative processes and related matters.

This issue has huge implications in rural areas. Never mind regulations, the previous Dáil and the previous Government failed to put in place guidelines for this industry. We urgently need regulations for wind farms. They continue to be built, particularly in the midlands, without proper guidelines or regulations. Four Ministers worked over a period of five years and failed to put them in place. I and other Deputies raised this issue continually in the past two and half years and promises were made to us. The result is Wild West-type development of wind farms in counties Laois, Offaly and Westmeath. A large development is planned for Cullenagh in County Laois with no protection for the landscape or rural dwellers in that area.

We are hoping to introduce some common sense. This Bill seeks to introduce practical regulations that can be implemented so that wind farms are located in the right places. The regulations would allow for sensible development and the protection of our landscape and rural dwellers. The Bill deals with excess product. Where there is a surplus, this can only be exported when approved by a Minister. It is a very serious issue. It is only where the Minister for communications, climate change and natural resources deems that there is an excess that it can be exported.

The location of wind farms is dealt with. The set back distance will be ten times the height of the wind turbine to the tip of the blade. Noise levels would have to be within WHO limits and shadow flicker from a propeller would not be permitted to pass over a house. It deals with the issue of public consultation so that it is real public consultation with local communities rather than cosmetic consultation. Crucially, it gives back power to local authorities which was taken away by previous Governments in which Deputy Micheál Martin took part and the last Government in the noughties. The Critical Infrastructure Bill took away the power to zone land for wind farm development from local authorities. This Bill would give back the power to make those decisions to elected councillors. The issue of co-ownership is dealt with. The Taoiseach will have noticed that wind farm developments have come up against huge resistance because there is no element of local ownership. In line with the practice on the Continent and other continents, our Bill provides local communities, particularly those within 4 km, with the opportunity to buy up to 20% of shares in the company and get a return. This could help disadvantaged areas such as areas with marginal land and sparsely populated areas.

We are putting this Bill forward as a sensible and practical approach to deal with an issue that has met with huge resistance. We see the need to have some wind farm developments and for them to be part of meeting our targets for green energy but we do not see them as the complete solution. Other methods such as solar power and hydro power need to be developed. I ask the Government and Fianna Fáil to accept the Bill in good faith, take it on board and allow it to go to the next Stage.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.