Wind power in the Republic of Ireland

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Wind turbines on Leitrims Corrie Mountain

As of 28 November 2014 Ireland has an installed capacity of 2,889 megawatts, which could provide enough energy to power over 1.7 million homes, suitable weather conditions provided. The power is generated by 211 windfarms spread over 26 of Ireland's counties.[1]

Previous milestones[edit]

External images
Today's prognosis and production

By 20 August 2013 Ireland had an installed capacity of 2,232 megawatts.[2] The 2013 figure shows an increase of 232 megawatts compared to the figures reported on 24 March 2012. Depending on weather conditions the power was enough to supply 1.3 million homes in 2012.[3]

On 31 July 2009, the output from the country's turbines peaked at 999 megawatts. At that time, 39% of Ireland’s demand for electricity was met from wind.[4] On 24 October 2009, the output exceeded 1000 megawatts for the first time with a peak of 1064 MW. Once in April 2010, 50% of electricity demand was met from wind power.[5] However, the wind generation capacity factor for 2010 was approx. 23.5%, giving an annual average wind energy penetration of approx. 11% of total kWh consumed.[6][7]

On 19 July 2010 the Irish Wind Energy Association reported an installed capacity of 1746 megawatts, enough to power 753,000 households. 2012 capacity is more than four times the total of 495.2 megawatts in 2005. In 2008 alone, the rate of growth was 54.6%, amongst the highest in the world.[8] Average 2013 output to 21/09/2013 is 486 Megawatts and Median 2013 Output is 393 Megawatts. Output can be as low as 3 Megawatts on a still day such as 12 July 2013 when a low of 3 Megawatts was reached at 9:30 am[9][not in citation given] which is 0.012% of the Rated Installed Capacity of over 2,200 Megawatts.

As of July 2012, up to 14.8% of Irish electricity has been generated from renewable sources, up from 5% in 1990. Wind is the main source of renewable energy production, increasing from less than 1pc of total renewable production in 1995 to over 40pc today.[10]

On 17 December 2013, the output from the country's turbines peaked reaching 1769 megawatts, a new record.[11]

Background[edit]

Wind turbines on Inishmaan

In the Directive[12] 2001/77/EC, otherwise known as the RES-E Directive, the European Union stated a goal to have 22% of the total energy consumed by member states to be produced from renewable energy resources by 2010. As a result, Ireland, in a report titled "Policy Consideration for Renewable Electricity to 2010", made the commitment to have 4% of its total energy consumption come from renewable energy resources by 2002 and 13.2% by 2010. The Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) founded the Renewable Energy Group (REG) which established the short term analysis group (STAG) to investigate a means of accomplishing this goal. To meet the 2010 target of 13.2%, 1,432 MW of electricity will need to be generated from renewable resources with 1,100 MW being generated from wind resources both onshore and offshore.

Offshore wind power[edit]

Main article: Offshore wind power

The Arklow Bank Wind Park, located 10 km off the coast of Arklow on the Arklow Bank in the Irish Sea, was Ireland's first offshore wind farm. The wind farm is owned and built by GE Energy and was co-developed by Airtricity and GE Energy. The site has 7 GE Energy 3.6 MW turbines that generate a total of 25 MW. The development of the site was originally divided into two phases with the first phase being the current installation of 7 turbines. The second phase was a partnership between Airtricity and Acciona Energy. Acciona Energy had an option to buy the project after the facility is completed. The wind farm was planned to expand to 520 MW of power. However, in 2007, Phase 2 was cancelled.[13]

Although the waters off the Atlantic coastline of Ireland are a better site for wind farms because of the available wind resources, sites along the eastern coastline such as Arklow were chosen because of the shallower waters, which are 20 m deep or less.

The National Offshore Wind Association of Ireland (NOW Ireland) announced in April 2010 that 60,000 potential jobs could be created in the Irish marine, construction, engineering and service industries through the development of offshore wind energy in Irish and European waters. NOW Ireland also announced in the same month that over €50bn was due to be invested in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea in the next two decades.[14]

In Belfast, the harbour industry is being redeveloped as a hub for offshore windfarm construction, at a cost of about £50m. The work will create 150 jobs in construction, as well as requiring about 1m tonnes of stone from local quarries, which will create hundreds more jobs. "It is the first dedicated harbour upgrade for offshore wind".[15]

Current trends[edit]

Grid connection is currently awarded on a 'first come, first connect' basis through Gate 3 procedures. On examination of the Gate 3 queue, there are a number of large onshore and offshore wind projects that are down the list and will, therefore, be offered grid connection towards the end of the anticipated 18-month processing period commencing in December 2009.[16]

Wind farms currently are given a planning permission that expires after five years. Legislation now exists to receive a 10 year planning grant, though it is rarely granted. But, the application process for securing a connection to the grid is on average 11 years for a distribution connection (less than 20 MW) and 8 years for a transmission connection (more than 20 MW). Extensions to the planning permissions may be granted if a significant amount of work has been completed on the wind farm. However, there is no standard or minimum of accepted amount of work that needs to be completed to be granted an extension of the planning permission. This causes some developers to not begin work on a wind farm until a grid connection is guaranteed, which slows the process of fulfilling necessary development to meet the 2010 and future energy goals.

The fourth issue regarding the generation of wind power is the Renewable Energy Feed-in Tariff, or REFIT. The purpose of REFIT is to encourage development of renewable energy resources. For wind power production, the current limit to the tariff is 1,450 MW. However, applications currently being processed for grid connections exceed the limit by almost 1,500 MW for a total for nearly 3,000 MW. Since the limit is 1,450 MW, many of the applications for grid connections may not eligible for the tariff.[17]

5 largest onshore wind farms[edit]

Wind Farm Completed Capacity (MW) Turbines Turbine Vendor Model Size (MW) County Coordinates Operator
Mount Lucas 2014 84 28 Siemens SWT-3-0-101 3 Offaly
Meentycat[18] 2005 72 38 Siemens 2.3 Donegal SSE Renewables[19]
Derrybrien[20] 2006 60 70 Vestas V52 0.85 Galway ESBI[21]
Boggeragh 2009 57 19 Vestas V90 3 Cork
Lisheen[22] 2009 54 18 Vestas V90 3 Tipperary SWS[23]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

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