|Photo : Irish Examiner|
The Commission claims also that the construction of the wind farm required the destruction of large areas of coniferous forest amounting to 263 hectares.
The Commission adds that, after the landslide which occurred on 16 October 2003 and the consequent ecological disaster, when the mass of peat which was dislodged from an area under development for the wind farm polluted the Owendalulleegh river, causing the death of about 50 000 fish and lasting damage to the fish spawning beds, Ireland carried out no fresh environmental impact assessment of this construction before the resumption of work on the site by the developer in 2004 [European Court Ruling 2008].
The construction of Derrybrien wind farm in 2003 caused a huge landslide resulting in the ecological disaster described above by the European Courts of Justice. Ten years later, Ireland still has not complied with their ruling and the EU are now seeking to impose fines on Ireland of €2 million.
The wind farm was the largest in Europe at the time with 70 vestas turbines (of 0.85MW each) giving a total output of 59.5MW. It began operation in 2006. Ten years later in 2016, the accounts show that the wind farm was making a loss of €2.3 million. Turnover dropped by 25% to €5m and operating costs increased by 17% to €6.3m from 2015. The company is owned by ESB and €20m in loans are still outstanding to them. It cost €64m to build.
The above graph compares the load factor (actual output / maximum output) for Derrybrien and the national average as published by Eirgrid since 2010. The load factor has dropped significantly in the past two years to 23% in 2016, which was less than the national average of 28%. Not great for a wind farm located in the windy west of Ireland. It could be that these particular wind turbines lose capacity over time. The first indication of a loss in capacity occurred in 2015 after eight years of operation. The national average was high at 33% whilst Derrybrien had a load factor 20% less at 26%.
A loss of wind turbine capacity means higher maintenance costs and this is reflected in the accounts where operating costs have increased to €6.3m from €5.4m in 2016.
The obvious question that needs to be asked about all this is are the massive environmental impact of wind farms built in such delicate areas worth it ? Whilst ESB will probably absorb these losses who finally pays ? ESB is 95% owned by the Government.
National Load Factors - Page 24 here.
Load factors for Derrybrien wind farm for 2015 and 2016 as per published accounts, other years were estimated based on annual turnovers.