Wind Farm Planning Guidelines
13 January 2014
A public consultation process on the proposed revisions was announced with public submissions to be made before 21 February 2014.
As part of the review on the Guidelines, Marshall Day Acoustics was commissioned by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland to carry out a study on wind farm noise. The objective of the study was to obtain evidence upon which to evaluate the appropriateness of the existing Guidelines in relation to noise impacts.
A significant development is the introduction of the planning authority’s approval of any waivers in respect of noise or distance from the turbines. It is likely that different approaches to the form of waiver will be taken by planning authorities and unless a form of acceptable waiver is issued developers would be advised to engage with the planning authorities prior to seeking waivers from relevant land owners. In any event legal advice should be sought as to the form of waiver to ensure it is sufficiently robust and provides the developer with the required protection in addition to the planning requirements.
Briefly, the revised noise and shadow flicker sections of the Wind Energy Development Guidelines being put out for public consultation propose the following:
The setting of a more stringent absolute noise limit, day and night, of 40 decibels (dB) for future wind energy developments at the nearest noise sensitive properties which includes areas of special amenity value.
The outdoor limit of 40dBA takes into account World Health Organisation findings in relation to night-time noise and the review of international practice undertaken by Marshall Day Acoustics.
This limit will apply unless a signed waiver is obtained from the property owner which is to the satisfaction of the planning authority. The introduction of approval of waivers by the planning authority is a new development.
For the purpose of the draft guidelines, noise sensitive properties are defined as dwelling houses, including those which have planning permission but are not yet built, and other buildings for long term residential use such as nursing/retirement homes.
Noise sensitive properties may also include areas of special amenity value, and for which a quiet environment is desirable, the preservation of which a quiet environment is included as an objective in a development or local area plan.
The limit is an outdoor limit, in general the reduction of noise levels between the outside of a dwelling and inside would be approximately 10 decibels.
The 40dBA noise limit applies to outdoors locations within the curtilage of noise sensitive properties. The curtilage of a domestic dwelling for the purposes of the draft guidelines is defined as ‘the land immediately surrounding a dwelling house which is used for purposes incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house as such and excludes any open fields beyond the immediate surrounds of the dwelling.
For areas of special amenity value the 40dBA limit applies at the boundaries of such areas identified in a development/local area plan.
Distance from Turbines
A mandatory setback of 500 metres between a wind turbine and the nearest dwelling for amenity considerations unless a signed waiver is obtained from the property owner. Again any such waiver is subject to approval by the planning authority.
A condition is to be attached to all future planning permissions for wind farms to ensure that there will be no shadow flicker at any dwelling within 10 rotor diameters of a wind turbine. If shadow flicker does occur, the wind energy developer or operator will be required to take necessary measures, such as turbine shut down for the period necessary, to eliminate the shadow flicker.
The above revisions in relation to noise and shadow flicker will only apply to local authorities granting planning permission in respect of future developments and shall not have any retrospective effect to planning permissions already granted.
Details of the Submission process are available here.