Dozens of wind farms at risk from outdated planning decisions

26 Jun 2024

The Irish wind energy industry has warned there is a growing risk that dozens of Ireland’s wind farms will be forced to shut down before the end of the decade unless urgent changes to the planning system are introduced by the Government.

This would mean the loss of approximately 20 per cent of the country’s installed wind energy capacity, make the Climate Action Plan targets essentially unachievable and increase Ireland’s reliance on energy imports.

The warning comes as Wind Energy Ireland today publishes a new report, Repowering Ireland: How we stay global leaders in onshore wind energy, which was produced by planning and environmental consultancy MKO.

This report shows that up to 76 wind farms with an installed capacity of 854 MW will reach the end of their planning permission between now and 2030.

If they cannot extend their planning permission or repower then they will be decommissioned. This means more carbon emissions, higher electricity prices, even greater dependence on imported fossil fuels and increased risk to our energy security.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “Simply because a wind farm’s planning permission has come to an end does not mean it cannot continue producing power. Ireland’s oldest wind farm is 32 years old this year and still producing power. Many of these wind farms which are under threat could operate for five, ten or even more years.

“We need to make it easier for wind farm owners to extend the duration of their planning permissions and, in the new Wind Energy Guidelines to be published before the end of the year, ensure the same problem does not arise in future.

“There is simply no reason, in the middle of twin climate and energy crises, to decommission operational wind farms because of planning restrictions, unsupported by evidence, imposed decades ago.”


Wind Energy Ireland has identified a series of reccomendations necessary to maintain Ireland’s position as a global leader in onshore wind energy and to enable these wind farms to continue to supply secure, affordable, power to Irish families and businesses.

First, allow operational wind farms to continue operating by making it easier for them to get permission from the planning authorities to extend their planning permission.

Historically, most wind farm planning permissions in Ireland included a condition which restricts their operational life to 20 or 25 years. To continue generating, the wind farm operator must apply for planning permission for life extension. This can be a costly and time-consuming process with no guarantee of success.

If an operational wind farm wishes to keep generating beyond its planning permission it should be permitted to do so. Additionally, in the new Wind Energy Guidelines proposed for publication later this year, the planning permission lifetime for onshore wind farms should be increased to align with the approach of the Commission for the Regulation of Utilities (CRU).

The regulator requires that the operational lifetime for a wind farm’s grid connection should be 50 years so increasing the lifetime for the wind farm to match this would seem logical.


Second, Government needs to put in place policies to support repowering. This is where the original turbines are taken down to be recycled and new, modern, turbines are installed in their place. This means all of the existing grid infrastructure can be reused at a location where the local community is already familiar with the technology.

In Barnesmore, Co Donegal, for example there is a project with planning permission to repower an existing 15 MW wind farm with 25 turbines and replace it with 13 turbines capable of generating 60-70 MW. Fewer turbines producing more power.

EU law provides that there should be a presumption in favour of granting planning permission to applications for repowering and this should be incorporated into the new Planning and Development Bill 2023.

Government must act now

Noel Cunniffe continued: “The Government must act. The Irish planning process continues to be the greatest barrier to the decarbonisation of our electricity system and to our country’s energy independence.

“The continuing extremely slow rate of approvals for new projects means that, unless the proposals in this report are given the priority they deserve, we face the very real likelihood that by the late 2020s we will be connecting fewer wind farms than we will be shutting down.

“If that scenario arises, it will not be by accident. It will be because of a conscious failure in the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage to take heed of the warnings set out in this report and to respond with the urgency required.

“We cannot afford to stall. We cannot go backwards. Together, Government and industry, must work to find solutions, to change policy and to rapidly roll-out the renewable energy needed to provide the Irish people with the clean, affordable, secure energy they need.”

Read the full report here.

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