Bay energy test site objectors up in arms over ‘flawed’ bid

An Ocean Energy Buoy in trials on the Galway Bay test site

Objectors have cast doubt on the legality of the foreshore lease application for a planned test site off the coast of An Spidéal.

Residents living in the seaside village in South Connemara have appealed to the authorities to “urgently investigate” why certain key environmental documents were not included in the Marine Institute’s application.

A recently formed environmental group in Spiddal, 1Guth Comhshaoil, has questioned whether the foreshore application has complied with Irish and European law.

The group has written to a whole host of organisations and state agencies, including Inland Fisheries Ireland and National Parks and Wildlife Service, and to government departments, demanding answers.

“There is no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) or Natura Impact Statement (NIS) included with this foreshore lease application. There is no statutory environmental assessment of the development. There is no ecological impact assessment of the project,” the group said, in letters to various organisations.

Campaigners believe these omissions from the application make it a “flawed” foreshore lease application, and claim that the omission of and EIS and NIS “undoubtedly bring into question the legality of the Minister’s final determination regarding this application.”

They argue that the “legality of the whole application process must surely be in doubt” due to the “irregularities”.

The group has heaped pressure on local politicians, too, and has written to Seán Kyne, the Galway West TD, and Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources.

In it, they have demanded answers from Minister Kyne, as to why some organisations within his remit have failed to answers questions about “serious concerns” the group has over the process.

“How is it possible that your department’s officials in Inland Fisheries Ireland, failed to advise Minister Simon Coveney that a statutory environmental assessment would be necessary in order to comply with environmental legislation, considering the various possible negative environmental impacts outlined in their submission on the above mentioned foreshore lease application?

“Can you please confirm that Minister Simon Coveney and his department’s officials, have been made aware of the need for a statutory environmental assessment in order to comply with European legislation,” Minister Kyne was asked.

The lack of an NIS was confirmed on February 21 by an official in Minister Simon Coveney’s department.

The official confirmed that not only was there no NIS with the application, but that the Appropriate Assessment screening process “has not been completed yet”.

The Marine institute’s original application stated it was seeking permission to deploy three turbines of 60 metres in height.

However, it subsequently corrected its application and insisted the “devices” will be half that height.

“A prototype floating wind turbine being tested on the site could have a blade tip at maximum 35m above sea level while wave energy converters would be up to 5m above sea level,” it said. It has applied for a 35-years lease, and the wind turbines will be on site “intermittently”.

The application states that there will be a limit of three ocean energy test devices deployed at any one time for a period of testing “no greater than 18 months”.

A total of 557 submissions were lodged as part of the public consultation on the Galway Bay marine and renewable test energy site.

Among the concerns raised, which are summarised by the authorities, include: incorrect information, vague information about economic benefits, misleading information, a conflict of interest and lack of impartiality of Minister Simon Coveney, lack of transparency, no Environmental Impact Statement,  inadequate information about the impact the site will have on the environment, confusion over whether it will be connected to the national grid, the length of the 35-years lease is too long, it is too close to the shoreline, it will create noise pollution, it will cause general pollution, there was insufficient consultation with the public, there was a lack of information during the consultation process, it will impact on tourism along the Wild Atlantic Way, and it poses risks to birds, marine mammals, fish and general wildlife.

Minister Coveney will be advised by the Marine Vetting Licensing Committee, and will then make a decision on the application.