The Irish Wind Energy sector is at a crossroads after a decade of much activity. The comfort of REFIT supports is over, the certainty of the Gate grid connection process is nearly past, and new market and regulatory challenges lie ahead in the forms of ECP and RESS. Despite these changing circumstances, one constant remains: planning is key. Securing the right planning permission on the right site unlocks the door to a successful wind farm project.
With wind developers now having to focus on the future I-SEM energy market and everyone chasing LCOE, securing the right planning permission is more important than ever. Turbine sizes, site optimisation and meaningful community consultation and stakeholder engagement will separate the successful projects from the unsuccessful in the years to come. Older operational projects will also soon have to deal with re-powering, and the new challenges that will present in the context of new Wind Energy Planning Guidelines and a more rigorous planning process than when the sites were first consented.
MKO has been at the cutting edge of the Irish wind energy planning for the last decade, having provided advice on over 1GW of onshore wind projects, successfully delivered hundreds of megawatts of projects through the planning system, and seeing more than a dozen projects right the way through to construction to commercial operation. Our in-depth industry insight, has proved invaluable to our clients, and we intend to stay at the cutting edge in years to come by continuing to provide the best advice to our clients to help them maximise the potential of their project pipeline.
They are also written to be practical and aware of the need to implement design and mitigation measures during a project’s construction/operation phase. We project manage client, design team and specialist inputs, and meet our client’s deadlines. Our EIA experience spans every industry sector. Projects and clients benefit from the combined experience of all our company’s staff, who have refined our EIA knowledge and practices over decades of work in this field.
Strategic Infrastructure Developments require strategic planning advisors. In this role, we help manage planning risks, reduce application timeframes and maximise the chance of a successful outcome.
Starting with the initial pre-determination consultation stage, through to SID determination and then on to preparation and lodgement of an SID application, MKO have experience of every stage of this process across dozens of projects. We lead the pre-determination consultation stage interactions with An Bord Pleanála. We compile the determination requests. We prepare and submit the SID applications, ensuring full compliance with all legislative and technical requirements. We help clients and projects through the SID process.
Planning Applications/Project Management
We manage the entire planning permission application process, or provide key inputs and planning advice. From advice at the pre-planning stage, through to preparing and managing the planning application or responding to further information requests, we help applicants or their project teams navigate a project through the planning process.
We can either lead the planning-phase design team or are equally happy to play out part as a team member. Our most experienced planners lead the consultations with the Planning Authorities, from the initial concept feasibility discussions right through to agreeing pre-commencement compliance requirements.
LVIA is a core company specialism, with our approach to projects being informed by our specialist landscape architecture, planning and environmental staff. We use qualitative and quantitative methodologies in our landscape policy, landscape character assessment and visual impact assessment work on projects of every size, from large scale wind farms to single houses.
We prepare detailed photo-realistic visualisations, wireframe models and other visual tools to help stakeholders visualise a project’s scale, size and setting in the receiving landscape. Our project-specific, tailored approach to LVIA has proven to be effective on multiple large scale infrastructure projects.
Our bat surveying experience, equipment and expertise allows us to manage surveys from the most sensitive of locations to the largest of sites. We have invested in the latest handheld and remote identification technology and software, and use that to improve bat survey accuracy and result confidence.
Our team, which includes qualified bat handlers, conduct all types of bat surveys required, walked surveys, building inspections, remote surveys or a combination of all the above. Surveys are tailored to the site, the type of proposed development and the time of year. Monitoring devices can be left in place for weeks or months at a time, capturing long-period data across large sites, giving large amounts of data that would otherwise be very costly to capture via surveyors.
We tailor the survey requirements for the site and type of project, with the most common survey methods employed being O’Brien & Smith (1992) surveys for lowland waders, Adapted Brown & Shepherd (1993) surveys for upland waders, Common Birds Census (Marchant,1983) for all commonly recorded species, Breeding raptor surveys (Hardey et al., 2009), Red Grouse surveys (NPWS, 2010) and Breeding Woodcock surveys (Gilbert et al, 1998). Our pre-survey site reconnaissance is invaluable for refining survey scope and requirements, to maximise survey coverage in the most effective way possible.
Using a rigorous process, we identify & select optimum sites for projects. We use GIS mapping to identify key planning and environmental constraints, and opportunity areas outside the constraints that can accommodate a development project.
It can be difficult enough to secure project consents, without starting with the wrong site. We help select the optimum site for a development, which gives the project the best possible chance of success. The consideration of alternatives (including alternative sites) is a key requirement for EIA projects, and we help applicants demonstrate they have selected the best site in an area, county or region, for their chosen project.