A challenge to planning permission for an underground connector to an eight-turbine wind farm in Co Waterford could threaten its viability, the Commercial Court has heard.
Knocknamona Windfarm Ltd got planning permission in 2016 for the turbines, with an overall height of 126.6 metres, at Tinakilly/Monageela/Kilatoor in Dungarvan. That permission was challenged and ultimately dismissed by the Commercial Court in 2017.
In 2021, the company got another permission for 1,940 metres of underground medium voltage cabling, and ancillary works, linking the Knocknamona wind farm with a substation. It will also link with an already built wind farm at Woodhouse.
Local couples, Niamh and John Reynolds and Moya and Tom Power, who are members of the Woodhouse Wind Aware Families group, which says locals are affected by wind farm noise and other impacts, then got permission from the High Court to bring a challenge to the cabling permission against An Bord Pleanála.
On Monday, Knocknamona Windfarm Ltd was given the go-a head by Mr Justice David Barniville to have this challenge also dealt with by the fast track Commercial Court. An Bord Pleanála was neutral on the application while the four residents did not object.
Knocknamona director Philomena Kenealy said in an affidavit seeking entry of the case to the list that delays to the start of construction of the entire project created by the legal challenge places it at risk of not meeting deadlines required for the Government's financial support for renewable energy schemes.
Ms Kenealy said if commercial operation of the project is not achieved by December 31, 2023, it will lose that support entirely.
That would mean the total income that could potentially be lost equals €70m over the 15 years of the support scheme, she said.
That would make it essentially impossible to secure bank debt and this would render the project unviable, she said.
In their judicial review proceedings the residents claim, among other things, that before the first wind farm was built, in Woodhouse, locals were led to believe the turbines would not have an impact on homes 500 metres from them.
Niamh Reynolds, who is also secretary of the local group, says in an affidavit that when Woodhouse wind farm was eventually built, five of the eight turbines in that development were even larger than actually allowed by the planning permission.
She says the vibration from the turbine blades and the pulses they emit can be felt inside her home and in the garden. She also says the noise causes sleep deprivation, tinnitus and buzzing in her family's ears.
She claims, among other things, the cumulative noise impacts of the existing Woodhouse project and the planned Knocknamona project have not been considered properly or at all by the board.
Mr Justice Barniville sent the case to the judge who deals with strategic infrastructure developments for further directions next week.