To ask the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources with regard to the proposed wind farms in the midlands, the plan that a organisation (details supplied) has in place for the future dismantling of obsolete turbines; in the case where the developer has moved on or is no longer trading, his plans for the future decommissioning of turbines to prevent them from becoming a blight on the landscape; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Anthony Lawlor. Element Power * For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 24th March, 2015. (825 Received on 10th March, 2015.)
Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Deputy Alex White)
Planning policy is a matter for the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government. I have no role with regard to the independent process through which applications for planning permissions for renewable energy installations are considered or enforced.
Wind Energy Planning Guidelines were published by the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government in 2006. The document is currently being revised. Sections 5.14 and 7.19 give guidance in relation to decommissioning and reinstatement of wind farms.
I understand that plans for decommissioning should be outlined at the planning stage, and decommissioning of a wind energy development must be assessed once electricity ceases to be generated. Issues to be addressed include restorative measures, the removal of above ground structures and equipment, and landscaping.
I understand decommissioning and reinstatement conditions requiring the lodgment of financial bonds have been used in the past to try to ensure that decommissioning will take place in a responsible manner. However, the Wind Energy Planning Guidelines (2006) recognise that the use of long-term bonds to secure satisfactory reinstatement of sites, upon cessation of projects, put unreasonable burdens on developers given the long life spans involved in wind energy developments. I am advised that the recycling value of turbine components, particularly copper and steel, should more than adequately cover the financial costs of the decommissioning. Accordingly, the Guidelines do not recommend the use of long-term bonds.
Finally, a planning authority may condition a developer to agree a final plan, including decommissioning provisions, prior to commencement of construction in order to comply with planning. Some planning authorities require a Decommissioning and Rehabilitation Plan to be submitted with the planning application, and notice may need to be given to the local authority in advance of decommissioning work.