Wind power in the Republic of Ireland
In 2015 wind turbines generated 23% of Ireland's average electricity demand, one of the highest electric grid penetration values in the world. Ireland's 226 wind farms (276 all-island), are almost exclusively onshore, with only the 25MW Arklow Bank Wind Park situated offshore as of 2017.
Ireland's wind power fluctuates between near nothing and 3,071 MW due to fluctuations in the penetration of the wind, with an average (the capacity factor) of 32.3% in 2015. Irish wind power has higher dependability in the gustier Winter months and lower in the Summer.
Ireland uses an EU industry subsidy known as the Public Service Obligation to support development of wind and other domestic power generation, currently levied at €72 per annum per household. In the 2016/17 period, €308 million raised through this levy was planned to be granted to supporting domestic renewable energy schemes. €120.90 million was planned to be granted to peat generation.
|Today's prognosis and production|
On the 12 January 2018 maximum output reached 2826 MW
In 2015 the island had 2,911 MW wind capacity. In 2014, 17.7% of Irish electricity came from wind, second only to the 30% of Denmark at that time. As of March 2015 Ireland has an installed wind power nameplate capacity of 2,230 megawatts (MW), and wind supplied 39% of December's demand. On 7 January 2015, the output from the country's turbines peaked reaching 2,514 megawatts (63% of load), a new record.
By 20 August 2013, Ireland had an installed capacity of 2,232 megawatts. The 2013 figure shows an increase of 232 megawatts compared to the figures reported on 24 March 2012. Average 2013 output to 21 September 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 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. 2012 capacity is more than four times the total of 495.2 megawatts in 2005. Depending on weather conditions wind power was enough to supply 1.3 million homes in 2012.
On 19 July 2010, the Irish Wind Energy Association reported an installed capacity of 1746 megawatts, enough to power 753,000 households. . Once in April 2010, 50% of electricity demand was met from wind power. 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.
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. On 24 October 2009, the output exceeded 1000 megawatts for the first time with a peak of 1064 MW.
In 2008 alone, the rate of growth was 54.6%, amongst the highest in the world.
In the Directive 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.
Ireland uses an EU industry subsidy known as the Public Service Obligation to support development of wind power. The PSO charge is in place so that money is given to companies for generating electricity from renewable sources and to help fund peat-burning stations, as neither are competitive enough without it. Irish homes are charged €63 a year in the PSO levy, resulting in €328 million going to the Wind and peat companies as of 2015. In 2016, this was increased to €72.
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.
Although the waters off the Atlantic coastline of Ireland have higher winds, 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.
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".
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.
While planning permission normally expires after 5 years, the Planning and Development Act 2000 section 41 allows for a longer period. At present it is common to apply and obtain a 10-year permission for a wind energy development. Section 42 of the above Act originally permitted a 5-year extension of the "appropriate period" provided that substantial works were carried out. This caused major problems as the term "substantial works" was not clearly defined which resulted in a large variety in interpretation of what constituted substantial works among the various planning authorities. This issue was rectified by the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2010 section 28 which inserted an additional paragraph allowing a once off extension not exceeding 5 years if "there were considerations of a commercial, economic or technical nature beyond the control of the applicant which substantially militated against either the commencement of development or the carrying out of substantial works pursuant to the planning permission"
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.[not in citation given]
5 largest onshore wind farms
|Wind Farm||Completed||Capacity (MW)||Turbines||Turbine Vendor||Model||Size (MW)||County||Operator|
In 2011, the 120-member Irish Academy of Engineering described wind as "an extremely expensive way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions when compared to other alternatives" like conservation, nuclear energy or the Corrib gas project and Liquified Gas tanker imports at Shannon, concluding that the suggestion of 40% grid penetration by wind, is "unrealistic". By contrast, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland says wind power costs the same as gas power.
Peat and CO2 impacts
Access roads on top of peatlands results in the drainage and then eventual oxidation of some of the peat. The turbines represent a minor impact, provided that the entire wind farm area is not drained, potentially emitting more CO2 than the turbines would save. Biochemist Mike Hall stated in 2009; "wind farms (built on peat bogs) may eventually emit more carbon than an equivalent coal-fired power station" if drained.
In a 2014 report for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which has similar peatland, it notes that siting wind turbines on peatland could release considerable carbon dioxide from the peat, and also damage the peatland contributions to flood control and water quality: "The potential knock-on effects of using the peatland resource for wind turbines are considerable and it is arguable that the impacts on this facet of biodiversity will have the most noticeable and greatest financial implications for Northern Ireland."
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council maintains a database on incidences were turbine construction and their associated works, such as road construction on deep peat, resulted in environmentally degrading "bog bursts"/"peat flows". Events that accelerate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Following the Corrie Mountain burst of 2008, Ireland was fined by a European Court over its mishandling of wind farms on peatland.
The body representing industrial Peat harvesting in Ireland, Bord na Móna, announced in 2015 the "biggest change of land use in modern Irish history": harvesting energy peat is being phased out by 2030, due to the long expected depletion of the profitable lowland peat at which point the company would complete its transition to becoming a "sustainable biomass, wind and solar power" organization.
In Derrybrien County Galway, at the site of what would become Ireland's largest wind farm in 2006, the 70 tower Derrybrien project, construction disrupted the underlying peatland. On 16 October 2003, it caused the 2003 Derrybrien landslide which culminated in an almost 2.5 km long, 450,000 m3 peat slide, polluting a nearby lake and killing 50,000 fish. If all carbon in the slide is being released, it represents 7–15 months of production from the wind farm in avoided carbon dioxide from fossil power. In 2004, engineering companies were convicted of being responsible for the pollution, while the wind farm company was acquitted. The Irish government was convicted in 2008 of poor oversight.
The Irish Peatland Conservation Council maintains a database on incidences where turbine construction and their associated works, such as road construction on deep peat, resulted in environmentally degrading "bog bursts"/"peat flows". Events that accelerate the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Following the Corrie Mountain burst of 2008, Ireland was fined by a European Court over its mishandling of wind farms on peatland. By 2010, at least three wind farm related peat slides had occurred in Ireland.
Environmental Impact & Greenhouse gases
As Ireland moved its electricity production from coal and peat to gas and wind, its CO2 emissions were reduced by 29% over 15 years (from 2001 to 2015) while generation increased.
In a typical study of a wind farms Life cycle assessment (LCA), in isolation, it usually results in similar findings as the following 2006 analysis of 3 installations in the US Midwest, were the carbon dioxide(co2) emissions of wind power ranged from 14 to 33 metric ton per GWh(14 - 33 gCO2/kWh) of energy produced, with most of the CO2 emissions coming from the production of concrete for wind-turbine foundations.
However, when approached from the effects on the grid as a whole, that assess wind turbines' ability to reduce a country's total electric grid emission intensity, a study by the Irish national grid, a grid that is predominately (~70%) powered by fossil gas, (and if it was 100% gas, would result in emissions of 410 - 650 gCO2/kWh.) found that although "Producing electricity from wind reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and therefore leads to [electric grid] emissions savings", with findings in reductions of the grid-wide CO2 emissions to 0.33-0.59 metric ton of CO2 per MWh (330 - 590 gCO2/kWh).
These findings were of relatively "low [emission] savings", as presented in the Journal of Energy Policy, and were largely due to an over-reliance on the results from the analysis of wind farms LCAs in isolation. As high electric grid penetration by intermittent power sources e.g. wind power, sources which have low capacity factors due to the weather, either requires the construction of transmission to neighbouring areas, energy storage projects like the 292 MW Turlough Hill Power Station, that have their own additional emission intensity which must be accounted for, or the more common practice of requiring a higher reliance on fossil fuels than the spinning reserve requirements necessary to back-up the more dependable/baseload power sources, such as hydropower and nuclear energy.
This higher dependence on back-up/Load following power plants to ensure a steady power grid output has the knock-on-effect of more frequent inefficient (in CO2e g/kW·h) throttling up and down of these other power sources in the grid to accommodate the intermittent power source's variable output. When one includes the intermittent sources total effect it has on other power sources in the grid system, that is, including these inefficient start up emissions of backup power sources to cater for wind energy, into wind energy's total system wide life cycle, this results in a higher real-world emission intensity related to wind energy than the in-isolation g/kW·h value, a statistic that is determined by looking at the power source in isolation and thus ignores all down-stream detrimental/inefficiency effects it has on the grid. In a 2012 paper that appeared in the Journal of Industrial Ecology it states.
The thermal efficiency of fossil-based power plants is reduced when operated at fluctuating and suboptimal loads to supplement wind power, which may degrade, to a certain extent, the GHG (Greenhouse gas) benefits resulting from the addition of wind to the grid. A study conducted by Pehnt and colleagues (2008) reports that a moderate level of [grid] wind penetration (12%) would result in efficiency penalties of 3% to 8%, depending on the type of conventional power plant considered. Gross and colleagues (2006) report similar results, with efficiency penalties ranging from nearly 0% to 7% for up to 20% [of grid] wind penetration. Pehnt and colleagues (2008) conclude that the results of adding offshore wind power in Germany on the background power systems maintaining a level supply to the grid and providing enough reserve capacity amount to adding between 20 and 80 g CO2-eq/kWh to the life cycle GHG emissions profile of wind power.
According to the IPCC, wind turbines when assessed in isolation, have a median life cycle emission value of between 12 and 11 (gCO2eq/kWh). While the more dependable alpine Hydropower and nuclear stations have median total life cycle emission values of 24 and 12 g CO2-eq/kWh respectively.
Regarding interconnections, Ireland is connected to adjacent UK National Grid at an electricity interconnection level (transmission capacity relative to production capacity) of 9%. The two grids have a high wind correlation of 0.61, whereas the wind correlation between the Irish grid and the Danish grid is low at 0.09.
One major aspect of wind farms in Ireland is tourist attraction and also local attraction. The Bord na Mona wind farm in Mount Lucas, Daingean, Co.Offaly has provided a local walk way through the newly established wind farm that attracts people of all ages. The walk way provides a safe environment off road for walking, running and cycling. The walk way is approximately nine kilometres in distance with numerous stop off points for breaks. Maps can also be located in a variety of locations on the walk for guidance around the wind farm and back to allocated car parks. The walk way also provides aesthetic scenery on a relatively flat landscape. Such a walk attracts many people year round and circulates money back into the local community as tourists stop off in local shops.
Grid study in Ireland
An Irish study of the grid indicates that it would be feasible to accommodate 42% (of demand) renewables in the electricity mix. This acceptable level of renewable penetration was found in what the study called Scenario 5, provided 47% of electrical capacity (different from demand) with the following mix of renewable energies:
- 6,000 MW wind
- 360 MW base load renewables
- 285 MW additional variable renewables (other intermittent sources)
The study cautions that various assumptions were made that "may have understated dispatch restrictions, resulting in an underestimation of operational costs, required wind curtailment, and CO2 emissions" and that "The limitations of the study may overstate the technical feasibility of the portfolios analyzed..."
Scenario 6, which proposed renewables providing 59% of electrical capacity and 54% of demand had problems. Scenario 6 proposed the following mix of renewable energies:
- 8,000 MW wind
- 392 MW base load renewables
- 1,685 MW additional variable renewables (other intermittent sources)
The study found that for Scenario 6, "a significant number of hours characterized by extreme system situations occurred where load and reserve requirements could not be met. The results of the network study indicated that for such extreme renewable penetration scenarios, a system re-design is required, rather than a reinforcement exercise." The study declined to analyze the cost effectiveness of the required changes because "determination of costs and benefits had become extremely dependent on the assumptions made" and this uncertainty would have impacted the robustness of the results.
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wind energy in Ireland having met 39 percent of the full month’s overall electricity demand, compared to 30 percent for the same period in 2014, with production peaking at a record 2037MW on Saturday 19th December 2015
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electricity generation increased from 21,024 GWh in 2001 to 25,069 GWh in 2015, CO2 emissions associated with this electricity generation fell from a peak of 16,883 kt CO2 in 2001 to 11,922 kt CO2 in 2015.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Wind power in the Republic of Ireland.|
- www.sei.ie - Sustainable Energy Ireland, Ireland's national energy agency.
- www.iwea.ie - Irish Wind Energy Association
- Arklow Bank Wind Park, GE Brochure (PDF)
- Sustainable Energy Ireland's report on policies for Renewable Energy programs (PDF)
- 2012 Regional map of wind farms
- Irish wind industry
- 2015 Time series of Irish wind power, spreadsheet