Senator Terry Leyden: Everybody accepts that alternative and renewable energy projects are vital for this country's future. The Bill brought forward by Senator John Kelly in this regard has great merit and deserves serious consideration by the Government. The major issue, however, is location. In Germany, for example, turbines are located on national primary routes, at considerable distance from residential areas. Any of us could sit down and quickly identify locations in this country which would be suitable for wind turbines and which, crucially, would not impact on residences, which is the primary objective. At the very least, we must have some type of arrangement whereby in cases where it is deemed to be in the national interest, it would be in order for an arrangement to be made between the Government, developers and landowners. The ESB has always followed certain rules and guidelines in regard to the erection of electricity lines, many of which are lain along national primary routes.
As far as smaller units are concerned, it is essential that communities have the capacity to develop small wind turbines that would supply energy for a number of houses in an area. Again, however, guidelines should apply in terms of required distances from dwellings. The case of the family outside of Roscommon to which Senator Kelly and others referred is very upsetting. These people settled in that location for the peace and tranquillity it offered, but now find themselves living beside a wind turbine. It is not that the noise is excessive but rather that it is constant, which is very distressing for them. We must consider all the options. The offshore option, for instance, is very attractive albeit more expensive. There are several unoccupied islands off our shores which might offer suitable locations for development.
We all accept that our potential to harness alternative energy sources must be explored. There is a market abroad for what we can produce and development of this area will allow us to reduce our oil imports. These are very practical benefits but, as I said, we must explore all our options and not just in the case of wind energy. There are opportunities for harnessing small rivers, for example. In Athleague in County Roscommon, for instance, the old mill on the River Suck could be mobilised for water turbines. Yet no action is being taken in this regard. There is, in fact, little evidence of an innovative approach by the State in the provision of alternative energy. There should, as a matter of priority, be enhanced support for small enterprises to provide turbines, whether for wind or water energy. There is also potential to facilitate the production of the turbines themselves in this State. As I understand it, most of the equipment is currently imported from China.
In short, there is a balance to be struck in all of this. Senator Kelly's Bill, with amendments, should be reconsidered by the Government. It would offer some certainty to families who are very concerned by the location of these turbines.