Farmers could oppose wind farm proposal

Farmers could oppose wind farm proposal

28 November 2012

A GROUP of local farmers have warned they may formally oppose plans for the UK’s first offshore wind farm, which is proposed for development off Ardglass.

The farmers, who recently formed the organisation Down District Farmers For Renewable Energy (DDFFRE) to improve conditions for farmers who are keen to develop wind turbines on their land, met the company behind the proposed wind farm, B9, during an all-day consultation about the proposal in Ardglass last week.

They are concerned tha being given preferential treatment for its proposal, which is subject to consultation, because of its multinational status and secured government backing.

They believe it will secure a “gold-played grid connection” because of government support for the project and think this is unfair when they struggle to secure a connection to the electricity grid for their own wind turbines.

During the meeting, farmers agreed they will consider actively opposing the proposed offshore wind farm because of their own concerns.

DDFFRE spokesman Niall Montgomery said farmers were concerned the multinational consortium behind the wind farm was not interested in supporting the local economy and would therefore do little to stimulate the local economy.

He said they had asked B9 for its commitment to help local farmers tackle their own difficulties with grid connection and the lack of connectivity South of Ballynahinch.

Patrick Magee, from Killard, said members of DDFFRE, who he said would play their full part in the consultation process about the offshore wind farm, struggled to get modest renewable energy proposals passed by the Planning Service and were often denied grid access once planning is approved.

Ian McMordie, from Killough, said they were concerned that the offshore wind farm was guaranteed planning and a gold-plated grid-connection built at the expense of Irish consumers with a much higher price for their energy than would be offered to local farmers.

“There is a strong economic case for onshore renewable energy, and not proceeding with the offshore wind farm at all,” he said.

Edward Carson, from Tyrella said that money would stay in the local economy if local farmers succeeded in securing a connection to the grid whereas money would “flow out of the local economy” if the B9 wind farm goes ahead offshore.

“At our meeting, we made it clear to B9 that we expected them to encourage economic development to the whole area, and not just mine our best assets for their multinational partners,” he said.

“We sought specific commitments to upgrading our ageing 11kv local grid with a modern 33kv grids as part of the proposal.

“Our local MP Margaret Ritchie has also undertaken to pursue bringing grid capacity further south than Ballynahinch and we will also be seeking a meeting with NI Electricity on this matter.”