• Last month, the ESB made the decision to decommission its 70-turbine wind farm at Derrybrien in south Co. Galway. This follows An Bord Pleanála’s refusal of ESB’s application for substitute consent for the renewable energy development.Constructed in 2003, a peat slide occurred at Derrybrien in October of that year. The slide resulted in many tonnes of peat entering the Owendululleegh River, causing pollution of the watercourse and killing an estimated 50,000 fish. The European Commission subsequently found that the peat slide was linked to the construction of the wind farm. The Commission’s investigation also found that the wind farm had been built without a proper environmental impact assessment having been carried out, thus rendering the planning permission invalid.

    In November 2019, the European Commission imposed a €5 million fine on Ireland as a result of the breaches in planning and environmental legislation at the site. A €15,000 daily fine was also imposed until the situation was resolved.  The State has already paid in excess of €17 million in fines as a result. The application for retrospective consent came after a long-running dispute between the operators of the development and the State. The operators argued that the planning procedures at the time of construction had been complied with. In February 2022, An Board Pleanála refused substitute consent for the development stating, “It is considered that in this case, significant effects on the environment occurred with significant permanent residual effects that can not be fully mitigated.”

    The decision to decommission the wind energy development is a blow to efforts to reduce the country’s fossil fuel dependence and to reach the 80% renewable energy target by 2030, as set by the Government in the Climate Action Plan 2021.  However, this case also highlights the importance of a detailed and robust environmental impact assessment at the design and planning stages of this type of development.

    It is understood that tenders will be sought to carry out the dismantling works at the site. At this stage, there is no indication as to when this could start.