Living in the shadow of the wind farm


Approaching the wind turbines on Sliabh Bán, I felt like I was walking onto the set of the Netflix series ‘Stranger Things’. There are signs in the middle of the forest warning ‘trespassers’ to keep away and to resist walking any further. Behind the trees and just out of sight, the turbines slice through the air, emitting a low, jet-like hum.

  Coillte and Bórd na Móna scaled the mountain and erected these modern Samsung-powered turbines which have been a source of controversy among local people since the planning application was submitted in August 2010. Those living closest to the wind farm are totally opposed to the structures which have been described by residents as “an eyesore”. The wind farm, which consists of 20 turbines, is expected to be fully operational in the spring. As it stands, approximately six turbines are in use.

  When myself and photographer Andrew Fox approached the edge of the forbidden area in the forest on Sliabh Bán, we did so with caution. I had images of men in radiation suits coming out of the forest to detain us. That’s just my overactive imagination of course, but the area and the presence of the turbines had an unsettling effect.

  Charlie and Fiona O’Rourke live near the top of Sliabh Bán and so have more reason than most to complain. Charlie says the large propellors ruin the landscape. “It’s the only bit of mountain in Roscommon and they have it destroyed. They’re a complete eyesore,” he says.

  Charlie told me that he and his family have lived on Sliabh Bán for a number of years and had previously been refused planning permission.

  “When we went building here back 15 years ago, they refused to give us planning for a two-storey house and now allow behind us, these wind turbines at 440 feet. It seems an absolute, total lunacy,” he said.

  Charlie also detailed the disturbances caused to livestock and domestic animals in the area since the turbines were erected. “I saw horses there last week and they were disturbed by it. Even calves in the field were running away, I’d never seen them running away before and there was no other reason unless it was that. The noise is like a low-flying jet, it’s a continuous hum.”

  Mr. O’Rourke feels that very little consideration was given to the residents in the area.

  “No respect or no thought put into it or no allowances made for people living under it. They gave a miserly sum to local community (groups), but sure the local community (groups) could be in Lanesboro or miles away from it (wind farm). That sum of money isn’t worth a damn to anybody. The people who are suffering, most of them will get nothing at all. Not to mention the fact that property values have decreased in the area due to their (Coillte) activity.”

  Mr. O’Rourke added in his opinion Coillte hadn’t really adequately compensated homeowners who have “suffered” as a result of the project.

  Charlie’s wife, Fiona, told me that the noise is unsettling, particularly when trying to sleep. She also said that the aircraft warning lights which sit at the top of the turbine are quite bright and have proven to be a nuisance. Fiona works nights, so sleep can be difficult enough without the added annoyance.

  Aesthetically, the turbines don’t really do much for the surrounding countryside. They look like props from ‘The War of the Worlds’ and according to local resident, Michael Fahy, they’re even worse when not in operation.

  “I’m 18 years living here and planning permission was got, as far as I know, before people were asked. I knew it was going ahead and there’s nothing really we could do. I don’t find them too bad when they’re actually doing something. It’s when they’re just standing there and not moving they’re worse,” he said. Michael lives a good distance from the mountain but the wind farm dominates his view of the skyline. Despite this he says he has learned to live with the view. “Look, if I was looking to sell my house they’d really be a problem, but I’ve no plans to move.”

  A number of  other residents felt the same way, but it was telling that not one really came out in support of the wind farm.

  Most residents felt that the wind farm took away from the picturesque surroundings. Some of the residents I spoke to lived far enough away from the turbines and were therefore undisturbed by any noise. The people living closest to the turbines, however, are completely opposed to their presence and it’s quite understandable. I can’t think of many people who’d like to live in the shadow of those propellors.