Wind power in the Republic of Ireland

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Wind turbines on Leitrim's Corrie Mountain, where a peat slide occurred in 2008.

As of 2016, Ireland has in total 2,990 MegaWatts of installed wind power nameplate capacity,[1] and 1 MW of solar power.[2][3]

In 2015 wind turbines generated 24% of Ireland's average electricity demand, one of the highest electric grid penetration values in the world.[4][5] Ireland's 188 wind farms,[6] are almost exclusively onshore, with only the 25MW Arklow Bank Wind Park situated offshore as of 2015.

Ireland's wind power fluctuates between near nothing and 2,815 MW due to the weather,[7] with an average (the capacity factor) of 32.3% in 2015.[1] Irish wind power has higher dependability in the gustier Winter months and lower in the Summer.[8]

Ireland uses an EU industry subsidy known as the Public Service Obligation to support development of wind and other domestic power generation,[9] currently levied at €72 per annum per household.[10] 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.[11]

Wind power in the Republic of Ireland is located in Ireland
Arklow Bank
Arklow Bank
Altagowlan
Altagowlan
Anarget
Anarget
Astellas
Astellas
Ballincollig Hill
Ballincollig Hill
Ballinlough/Ikerrin
Ballinlough/Ikerrin
Ballinveny
Ballinveny
Ballybane
Ballybane
Ballymartin
Ballymartin
Ballywater
Ballywater
Bawnmore
Bawnmore
Barnesmore
Barnesmore
Beal Hill
Beal Hill
Beallough
Beallough
Beam Hill
Beam Hill
Beenageeha
Beenageeha
Bellacorick
Bellacorick
Bindoo
Bindoo
Black Banks
Black Banks
Boggeragh
Boggeragh
Booltiagh
Booltiagh
Burtonport
Burtonport
Caherdowney
Caherdowney
Caranne Hill
Caranne Hill
\Cark
\Cark
Carnsore
Carnsore
Carrigcannon
Carrigcannon
Carrig
Carrig
Carrons
Carrons
Castledockrell
Castledockrell
Clydaghroe
Clydaghroe
Coomacheo 1
Coomacheo 1
Coomacheo 2
Coomacheo 2
Coomatallin
Coomatallin
Cornacahan
Cornacahan
Corneen
Corneen
Corry Mountain
Corry Mountain
Crocane
Crocane
Crockahenny
Crockahenny
Cronalaght
Cronalaght
Cronelea
Cronelea
Cronelea Upper
Cronelea Upper
Cuillalea
Cuillalea
Culliagh
Culliagh
Curragh, Co Cork
Curragh, Co Cork
Curraghgraigue
Curraghgraigue
Derrybrien
Derrybrien
Derrynadivva
Derrynadivva
Dromada
Dromada
Drumlough
Drumlough
Drybridge/Dunmore
Drybridge/Dunmore
Dundalk
Dundalk
Dunmore
Dunmore
Flughland
Flughland
Gartnaneane
Gartnaneane
Geevagh
Geevagh
Glackmore
Glackmore
Glenough
Glenough
Gortahaile
Gortahaile
Grouse Lodge
Grouse Lodge
Garracummer
Garracummer
Gneeves
Gneeves
Greenoge
Greenoge
Inverin
Inverin
Kealkill
Kealkill
Kilgarvan
Kilgarvan
Kilgarvan Extension
Kilgarvan Extension
Killybegs
Killybegs
Kilronan
Kilronan
Kilvinane
Kilvinane
Kingsmountain
Kingsmountain
Knockastanna
Knockastanna
Knockawarriga
Knockawarriga
Lacka Cross
Lacka Cross
Lackan
Lackan
Lahanaght Hill
Lahanaght Hill
Largan Hill
Largan Hill
Lenanavea
Lenanavea
Lisheen
Lisheen
Loughderryduff
Loughderryduff
Lurganboy
Lurganboy
Mace Upper
Mace Upper
Meenachullalan
Meenachullalan
Meenadreen and Meentycat
Meenadreen and Meentycat
Meenanilta
Meenanilta
Glanlee Midas
Glanlee Midas
Mienvee
Mienvee
Milane Hill
Milane Hill
Moanmore
Moanmore
Moneenatieve
Moneenatieve
Mount Eagle
Mount Eagle
Mount Lucas
Mount Lucas
Mountain Lodge
Mountain Lodge
Mullananalt
Mullananalt
Muingnaminnane
Muingnaminnane
Pallas
Pallas
Raheen Barr
Raheen Barr
Rahora
Rahora
Rathmooney
Rathmooney
Reenascreena
Reenascreena
Richfield
Richfield
Seltanaveeny
Seltanaveeny
Shannagh
Shannagh
Sheeragh
Sheeragh
Skehanagh
Skehanagh
Skrine
Skrine
Snugborough
Snugborough
Sonnagh Old
Sonnagh Old
Sorne Hill
Sorne Hill
Spion Kop
Spion Kop
Slieveragh
Slieveragh
Taurbeg
Taurbeg
Tournafulla
Tournafulla
Tullynamoyle
Tullynamoyle
Tursillagh
Tursillagh
Slieve Rushen
Slieve Rushen
Lendrum's Bridge
Lendrum's Bridge
Callagheen
Callagheen
Hunter's Hill
Hunter's Hill
Slieve Divena
Slieve Divena
Tappaghan Mountain
Tappaghan Mountain
Lough Hill
Lough Hill
Balloo Wood
Balloo Wood
Brett Martin
Brett Martin
Bessy Bell
Bessy Bell
Bin Mountain
Bin Mountain
Bessy Bell
Bessy Bell
Wolf Bog
Wolf Bog
Owenreagh
Owenreagh
Elliot's Hill
Elliot's Hill
Altahullion
Altahullion
Rigged Hill
Rigged Hill
Corkey
Corkey
Gruig
Gruig
Garves Mountain
Garves Mountain
Ulster University
Ulster University
Locations of wind farms on and around the island of Ireland

Previous milestones[edit]

External image
Today's prognosis and production

In 2015 the island had 2,911 MW wind capacity. In 2014, 17.7% of Irish electricity came from wind, second only[12] to the 30% of Denmark at that time.

On 23 December 2016 as the named Storm Barbara passed close to Ireland, a new record of 2,247 MW was generated in the Republic of Ireland,[citation needed] peaking at 2,815 MW.[7][13]

As of March 2015 Ireland has an installed wind power nameplate capacity of 2,230 megawatts (MW),[3] and wind supplied 39% of December's demand.[14]

On 7 January 2015, the output from the country's turbines peaked reaching 2,514 megawatts (63% of load), a new record.[12]

By 20 August 2013, Ireland had an installed capacity of 2,232 megawatts.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17]

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.[18] 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[19] which is 0.012% of the Rated Installed Capacity of over 2,200 Megawatts.

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.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22][23]

Background, Financing[edit]

Wind turbines on Inishmaan

Eddie O’Connor, then CEO of the semi-state owned peat harvesting company, Bord na Móna, commissioned the country’s first "commercial wind farm" in a cutaway peat bog in County Mayo in 1992.[24]

In the Directive[25] 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.[26] The PSO charge (AKA "sneaky tax") 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.[27] In 2016, this was increased to €72.[28]

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.[29]

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.[30]

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".[31]

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.[32]

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.[33] 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.[34][not in citation given]

5 largest onshore wind farms[edit]

Wind Farm Completed Capacity (MW) Turbines Turbine Vendor Model Size (MW) County Operator
Meenadreen[35][36] 2017 95 38 Nordex N90 2500 2.5 Donegal Energia
Knockacummer 2014 87.5 35 Nordex N90 2500 2.5 Cork Brookfield
Mount Lucas 2014 84 28 Siemens SWT-3-0-101 3 Offaly
Meentycat[37] 2005 72 38 Siemens 2.3 Donegal SSE Renewables[38]
Derrybrien[39] 2006 60 70 Vestas V52 0.85 Galway ESBI[40]

Controversy[edit]

Economy[edit]

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".[41] By contrast, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland says wind power costs the same as gas power.[42]

Peat and CO2 impacts[edit]

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,[43] provided that the entire wind farm area is not drained, potentially emitting more CO2 than the turbines would save.[44] 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.[45]

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."[46]

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.[47] Following the Corrie Mountain burst of 2008, Ireland was fined by a European Court over its mishandling of wind farms on peatland.[47][48]

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[49] at which point the company would complete its transition to becoming a "sustainable biomass, wind and solar power" organization.[50]

Land slides[edit]

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.[51] 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.[44] In 2004, engineering companies were convicted of being responsible for the pollution,[52] while the wind farm company was acquitted.[53] The Irish government was convicted in 2008 of poor oversight.[54]

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.[47] Following the Corrie Mountain burst of 2008, Ireland was fined by a European Court over its mishandling of wind farms on peatland.[47][55] By 2010, at least three wind farm related peat slides had occurred in Ireland.[43]

Environmental Impact & Greenhouse gases[edit]

Studies by the Vattenfall electricity company found; electricity generation by Hydroelectric, nuclear stations and wind turbines in-isolation, to all have a far smaller embodied carbon footprint than other sources represented. These studies on the total life-cycle, greenhouse gas emissions, per unit of energy generated take into account the Nordic utilities cradle-to-grave construction emissions etc. These results are largely in-line with those made in 2014 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.[56] However they do not assess real-world integrated grid findings and the actual pollution emitted from the addition of wind energy into an electric grid.[57][58][59]

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.[60]

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.[61]

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.[62][63]) 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).[64]

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.[58][59] 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,[65][66] 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.[58]

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.[58] In a 2012 paper that appeared in the Journal of Industrial Ecology it states.[57]

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.[62][63]

Regarding interconnections, Ireland is connected to adjacent UK National Grid at an electricity interconnection level (transmission capacity relative to production capacity) of 9%.[67] 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.[68]

Tourism[edit]

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.[69]

Grid study in Ireland[edit]

An Irish study of the grid indicates that it would be feasible to accommodate 42% (of demand) renewables in the electricity mix.[70] 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.[71]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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