Wind farm planning.
University College Dublin is the greatest in Ireland and is also one of the Europe’s highly ranked English speaking universities which actively participate in researches. To match its long-term vision of becoming the nation’s most innovative third level institution, the university has planned to incorporate wind power production into its Belfield campus development plan. This will include a small number of suitable turbines constructed in several areas of the campus. The turbines will be dispersed in the lake, in the car park, on the margins of pitch and in the outlier areas. From the feasibility studies carried out, the project is broadly favourable. The major dilemma is whether the proposals of the project requires Environmental Impact Assessment since some officials believe that the EIA is required for large projects so as to utilize any available space in the campus while the poor financial circumstances of the university are trying to avoid some costs by excluding the EIA.
According to Manwell, F & McGowan, G. (2010), wind farm basically is a collection of wind turbines put within an extensive area of square kilometers. Classification of wind farms is generally based on the location of the wind turbines. Initially, people preferred areas of installing them on the mountains and hilly areas. These were commonly known as onshore wind parks. The area occupied by the wind parks are mostly used for animal grazing or cultivation. With the revolutionary technology, people started installing wind energy production farms on the surface of the water. These are called the offshore wind parks. These parks use the strong winds which blow on the water surface. The other type of wind farm which is the near shore is one where the turbines are set up in an area which is almost in a 3 kilometer radius. These locations are useful because wind pressure in these areas is comparatively high from locations hence more power generated. The last type of wind farm, the airborne wind farm, towers are not necessary and such mode of system are not linked since turbines do more rotation because of the power of the high wind. For this reason the system is free from power installation. (Vaughn, N, 2007).
The type of wind farm proposal whish mostly requires Environmental Impact Assessment is the offshore wind farm. The EIA Directive (97/11/EC) demands an EIA to be conducted alongside with a proposal for development permit for specific categories of projects that are stated in the Directive. The offshore wind farm creation is stated in Annex II as “installations for the harnessing of wind power for energy production (wind farms)”. (Energodata Ingraf, 2010). The other types of wind farms which may require EIA are the onshore and the near shore wind farms but it is not compulsory for them to undergo the EIA process. This process is a way of systematically bringing together the project’s assessment which has significant effects to the environment. This is important in ensuring the vital predicted effects and the scope for decreasing them are well understood by the people and the concerned competent bodies before any decision is made.
According to Energodata Ingraf ( 2010), the offshore wind farm ultimately qualifies for assessment as a Strategic Infrastructural Development because it is of a great strategic social and economic value to the state. EIA measures the effects of the proposed development plan. If they are found to be harmful, relevant design measures or other preventive measures are put in place to avoid or reduce those effects. Among the positive factors that are seen with the offshore is that they have limited noise pollution as they do not take sounds to the shore. Further, great deal of offshore wind farms are far off the shoreline and out of sight from the shoreline. However, this offshore wind farms are often hard and expensive to not only set them up but also link them up to the near shore.
When setting up a wind farm, several bodies will play a key role in its development. The first one is The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). This body regulates the amount of power generated by the electricity plants and gas industries in Ireland in order to ensure constant supply of both gas and electricity at reasonable prices to consumers, the conservation of environment and safe energy supply. The Department of the Environment plays the role of planning rules that include wind farms planning. It is the one that sets regulations that govern the planning processes. The Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources is in-charge of the corporate management of all the involved bodies. (Autor, 2008).
In the case of a small sub-threshold proposal, the best methods to establish the likelihood of a request for EIA are by checking closely on the following aspects: characteristics of proposed development, characteristics of potential impacts and the location of proposed development. However small the proposal is, it should clearly state the features of the project indicating the materials to be used and the output expected from it. The proposal should also define very well where the project will be located. The impacts of the project, both positive and negative should also be clearly defined. (Energodata Ingraf, 2010).
The county or local authorities play a key role in the creation of wind farms and their decisions may sometimes constrain the development of a project. The authorities send a message to the Environmental Protection Agency regarding the proposed project associated with Waste licensable activities or Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control. The EPA assesses the project and its impacts to the environment and the society in general. If the project is found to be very harmful to the environment, the license is denied and thus the project is constrained. (Autor, 2008).
Autor, P., Environmental Impact Assessment: Theory and Practice, Philadelphia, Routledge Publishers, 2008.
Energodata Ingraf, Guidelines on the Environmental Impact Assessment for Wind Farms, Serbia, Belgrade, 2010.
Vaughn, N., Wind Energy: Renewable Energy and the Environment, Washington, CRC PressINC, 2007.