A first step in promoting wind energy is locating sites with wind potential. Just as important as potential is finding a marriage between utilization and natural preservation. A planning system geared towards wind energy and accompanying environmental concerns was released by Ireland’s Minister for the Environment Martin Cullen, and should help the country meet its goal of 13 percent wind energy production by 2010.Carnsore, Ireland – September 20, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The draft proposals advocate a ‘plan-led’ approach, which will require authorities to proactively identify areas where there is significant wind energy potential. These areas will then be mapped in the development plan to provide clarity for the public, developers and the planning authority. Under the proposals, planning authorities can grant planning permission in those areas subject to the siting and design criteria contained in the plan guidelines. “Ireland has a very challenging national climate change target,” Cullen said. “I believe central to achieving this will be ensuring the planning system looks favorably on wind farms.” According to Cullen, the guidelines challenge preconceptions about where wind farms should be located. Photomontages of wind farms in various types of landscapes are included in the Guidelines to show how factors such as siting and location, spatial extent and scale, cumulative effect, spacing, layout and height of turbines can be best applied within different landscape types. Other planning aspects dealt with in the revised Guidelines include impacts on the built and natural heritage, including birds, on geology and noise and safety considerations. “There has been a perception that designating an area for natural heritage reasons or due to the presence of rare birds will prevent any wind farm developments proposals going ahead there. The Guidelines show how these impacts can be mitigated by prospective applicants and planning authorities working together and agreeing on measures to avoid or minimize potential adverse effects,” Cullen said. The draft Planning Guidelines on Wind Energy Development are being issued for an eight-week public consultation period. All submissions submitted before 30 September, 2004 will be considered before a final version of the Guidelines is issued.