An amendment to the Planning and Development (Substitute Consent) bill is currently with the Seanad which would give wind farms more flexibility to make such changes after getting planning permission.
Following the Derryadd High Court case (Sweetman vs An Bord Pleanála & Bord na Móna PowerGen Ltd) which overturned a granted planning permission for a Bord na Mona wind farm in Co. Longford last year on the grounds the application did not contain exact dimensions or location of their proposed turbines there was industry wide concern that wind projects could be delayed while the implications were considered.
Until 2021, wind farm developers were allowed certain flexibility to change the size and design of their turbines once they did not exceed their maximum permitted height as set out in their planning permission. It was standard practice up until this point to apply for ‘maximum’ tip heights, hub heights etc which would leave a certain level of flexibility to construct a range of turbines, as long as they fell within the permitted ‘maximums’.
Requiring developers to commit to exact turbine dimensions at planning doesn’t reflect the amount of time it may take for projects to commence construction after planning is granted, and greatly restricts the developer’s ability to avail of new turbine technologies.
In light of the Derryadd case, it is understood that if future wind farm parameters require flexibility, the parameters must have a certain limited degree of flexibility, be specifically measured and capable of being shown on a drawing, not be open ended in scale, not couched in terms of what is ‘typical’ and what is ‘maximum’ and be properly assessed.
If adopted, this would allow developers to apply for planning for a potentially larger turbine than they might end up utilising, if that turbine is more efficient at the time of construction.
This bill will be closely watched by offshore developers as the seabed of the chosen site may turn out to be unsuitable and to allow for more efficient turbine specifications to be utilised as the technology progresses.