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Wind Turbines Noise Sets Stage for Compensation and Regulatory Review in High Court

By April 2, 2024 No Comments
Wind Turbines

In a groundbreaking decision, the High Court has referred a significant ruling regarding wind turbines noise to the Attorney General for further consideration. This ruling has the potential to set a precedent affecting both current and future wind farm operations across Ireland.

The case centers on the claim that noise generated by wind turbines, even when it falls within the regulatory limits, can still constitute a nuisance. This recognition opens up the possibility for individuals affected by turbine noise to seek compensation, claiming that it disrupts their home life and daily activities.

The genesis of this ruling was a case brought forward by two couples living in proximity to a wind farm in County Wexford. Their complaints detailed constant stress, sleeplessness, and even severe relationship and mental health repercussions attributed to the turbine noise. In her judgment, High Court Judge Ms. Justice Emily Egan ruled in favor of the couples, acknowledging their right to damages from the wind farm company for having to endure noise levels deemed unreasonable for any average person.

Further deliberations in this case will determine the exact compensation and whether an injunction should be placed on the wind farm’s operations. Such an injunction, if issued, might limit the farm’s operational hours instead of shutting it down entirely.

This landmark ruling arrives at a pivotal moment as Ireland aims to significantly ramp up its renewable energy output, in line with the national Climate Action Plan‘s goal to double its onshore wind power capacity from approximately 4.5 gigawatts (GW) to 9GW by 2030.

Wind Energy Ireland, representing a majority of the country’s wind farm owners, is closely examining the judgment for its potential impact on the development of onshore renewable energy projects. Similarly, the Departments of Housing and Environment, along with the Office of the Attorney General, are reviewing the judgment in the context of planning regulations and environmental impact.

The wind farm involved, located in Ballyduff, Enniscorthy, County Wexford, and operated by Meenacloghspar Wind since 2017, had received its planning permission with specific conditions related to noise levels. Throughout the 51 days of hearings, a comprehensive range of evidence was presented, covering noise causes, its perception by individuals, and the influence of weather and geographical features.

Justice Egan’s ruling notably diverged from the argument that compliance with planning conditions should be the sole consideration, suggesting wider implications for similar cases. She also pointed to a lack of regulatory data within Ireland, turning to the UK’s ‘Windfarm Noise Statutory Complaint Methodology’ for guidance.

The broader significance of the case was acknowledged by Justice Egan, emphasizing the essential role of renewable energy production in society. Yet, she clarified that the public importance of such activities does not negate their potential to cause nuisance, suggesting that the public interest should be considered in determining an appropriate remedy, potentially leading to tailored injunctions rather than general prohibitions.

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