The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy TD, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton TD, launched a public consultation on proposed revisions to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines (the draft Guidelines) on 12 December 2019. The draft guidelines, when finalised, will affect future planning applications and considerations for future wind energy development proposals.
Why are the 2006 Guidelines being revised?
It is considered necessary to update the Wind Energy Development Guidelines to reflect developments made since the 2006 Guidelines were published and to be responsive to future changes.
What are the main changes to the current Guidelines?
1. New noise standards The draft Guidelines propose noise restriction limits consistent with World Health Organisation standards, being relative rated noise limit of 5dB(A) above existing background noise within the range of 35 to 43dB(A), with 43dB(A) being the maximum noise limit permitted, day or night. The noise limits will apply to outdoor locations at any residential or noise sensitive properties. A noise sensitive location is defined as any location in which the inhabitants may be disturbed by noise from a wind energy development.
The permitted noise levels will take account of certain noise characteristics specific to wind energy projects. This includes tone, amplitude modulation and low frequency noise, and provide penalties for tonal noise and amplitude modulation, and a threshold for low frequency noise above specified limits.
What penalties apply for Special Audible Characteristics of Wind Energy Development Noise?
The proposed penalties to apply are set out in section 4.1 of Technical Appendix 1 - Special Audible Characteristics of Wind Energy Development Noise of the draft Guidelines. These include:
- Tonal Noise: An adjustment for Tonal Noise of up to 6dB is to be added to the rated level when it is present
- Amplitude Modulation: An adjustment for Amplitude Modulation of up to 5dB is to be added to the rated level when it is present
- Low Frequency: There are no penalty adjustments for Low frequency noise. Rather, if low frequency noise is measured and exceeds the threshold set out in the draft Guidelines, the relevant wind turbines must be taken out of operation until compliance can be proven
2. Setback distance The draft Guidelines require a setback distance for visual amenity purposes of four times the tip height between a wind turbine and the nearest point of the curtilage of any residential property in the vicinity of the proposed development. This is subject to a minimum mandatory setback distance of 500 metres. This setback requirement is also subject to the need to comply with the proposed noise limits outlined above. An exception may be provided for a reduced setback requirement on agreement with the relevant property owners and occupiers. In such cases, the noise limit must still be capable of being complied with.
3. Automatic shadow flicker control mechanisms Automatic shadow flicker control mechanisms will be required to be in place for the operational duration of a wind energy development project. It will be a specific condition of planning permissions that should shadow flicker occur and impact existing properties, the relevant wind turbines must have the relevant technology installed that will shut it down whilst shadow flicker can be experienced. The 2006 Guidelines recommended that shadow flicker at neighbouring offices and dwellings within 500m should not exceed 30 hours per year or 30 minutes per day. The 2019 proposals seek to require the elimination of shadow flicker altogether.
4. Community consultation Wind energy developers will be mandatorily required to engage in active public consultation with the local community prior to submitting a planning application. Planning authorities will take into account the degree to which the proponents of wind energy projects have meaningfully and properly consulted with and facilitated public participation in developing and refining their proposals. Developers will have to prepare and submit a ‘Community Report’ as part of their planning application. This will outline:
- how they have consulted and engaged with the local community regarding the proposed development
- how the final proposal has been adjusted or modified in response to the community consultation
- how they will work with the local community to allow for the free flow of information between the community and the developer at all stages in the project
5. Community dividend Wind energy developers will have to provide an opportunity for the proposed development to be of enduring economic or social benefit to the local community, whether by facilitating community investment/ ownership in the project, other types of benefits/ dividends, or a combination of the two. Tangible long-term benefit to the community is required.
How long does the consultation period last?
The consultation period will run for ten weeks and closes at 5pm on 19 February 2020. You can make a submission by email or to the following address: WEDG Review Submissions Planning Policy and Legislation Section Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government Custom House Dublin 1 D01 W6X0
It is envisaged that the revised Guidelines will be published during Q2 2020.