Wind Turbine Regulation Bill 2020: 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.

I welcome the opportunity to introduce this Bill. Wind energy has to have a place in the future of Ireland's renewable energy sector. We need to put in place sensible regulations to facilitate its development. Across the midlands, particularly in Laois and Offaly, wind farms have sprung up and been constructed without any regulations or even up to date guidelines. We are working on out of date 2007 guidelines. In both Laois and Offaly, massive turbines have been erected and they are close to dwelling houses in some cases. This has been of particular interest to me and Sinn Féin for many years. I first introduced the Bill in the Thirty-first Dáil in 2014 to provide regulations for wind turbine developments. I followed up on that with legislation in 2016. Today is my third attempt in seven years to make progress on this important issue. I will keep trying.

Sinn Féin's Bill seeks to introduce practical regulations that can be implemented to allow wind farms to be constructed and to be located in the correct places. It also deals with what we should do with excess product and establishes opportunities for community involvement through public consultation in the planning phase and also in part ownership, which is important. There is a good example of this in Templederry in Tipperary. Our Bill attempts to introduce some common sense to setback distances and to deal with that contentious debate. We propose a minimum setback distance of ten times the height of the turbine, to the tip of the blade. We propose that noise levels should be kept within World Health Organization limits. Shadow flicker from the propeller should not be permitted to pass over a dwelling house. Crucially, the Bill gives power back to local authorities and councillors which was taken away from them when the critical infrastructure legislation was brought through this House in the 2000s. It removed the power of councillors, the people elected at local level, to decide on these matters. This is important with regard to wind farms.

We need to involve local communities in the development of renewable energy and in wind turbine development to avoid the conflict and resistance from areas that are impacted. In line with the best practice across Europe, our Bill provides local communities in a 4 km radius the opportunity to buy shares in projects and to receive shares as a dividend. This could provide great financial assistance for disadvantaged rural areas and help to regenerate rural areas that have been marginalised and disadvantaged over the past few decades. It is unfortunate that three consecutive Governments have failed to put in place wind farm regulations. I have pursued this since the Thirty-first Dáil, in 2014, because I believe that some simple, common sense changes can be made to help local communities and to support the sector to develop properly in a sustainable way.

The Bill is straightforward. I sincerely ask people in all parties to read it. There is a feeling that this has been put on the back burner the whole time, while wind farms have been springing up. In other words, the horse has been allowed to bolt and then the gate has been fastened. That is not the way. We should have learned from the housing crisis and the shambolic developments of the Celtic tiger era. We should not let the same thing happen with wind farms. I ask all parties to read this Bill and hopefully Members of this House can find it within themselves to back this moderate, sensible legislation.

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.