Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Peat Country Notes
More than 17% of the republic's land surface is classified as peatland. Peat deposits totalling nearly 12 000 km2 are widely distributed, being especially prominent along the western seaboard and across the Midland Plain in the centre of the island. Domestic consumption of peat for energy purposes in Ireland dates back to prehistoric times, with documentary evidence of its use existing from as early as the 8th century. After large stretches of the island's forests were cleared in the 17th century, peat (called 'turf' when cut) became the only fuel available to the majority of households.
Mechanical methods of extraction were adopted on a large scale following World War II, both for the production of milled peat (used as a power-plant fuel and in the manufacture of peat briquettes) and to replace manual cutting of sod peat for household use. Production of fuel peat in 2004 (as reported to the IEA) was about 4.4 million tonnes, with consumption of around 2.7 million tonnes.
Out of current annual consumption of peat for energy purposes, nearly 70% is used in power stations and heat plants, 16% is briquetted and 13% consists of sod peat, used predominantly as a residential fuel. Peat briquettes are also almost all used as household fuel.
Since its foundation in 1946, the Irish Peat Development Authority (Bord na Móna) has promoted the economic development of Ireland's peat resources. A number of power stations and briquetting plants have been built near peat deposits. A programme has been undertaken to replace five old peat-fired power plants with three more efficient and more environmentally-friendly peat-fired power plants. The first of the new stations, built by Edenderry Power Ltd near Clonbulloge, County Offaly, with a net output capacity of 120 MW, was commissioned in November 2000. It consumes approximately 1 million tonnes of milled peat per annum. The other new stations were constructed at Lough Ree (100 MW), replacing the existing Lanesboro station in December 2004, and West Offaly (150 MW), which replaced Shannonbridge in January 2005. The peat consumption rates of Lough Ree and West Offaly are 800 000 tpa and 1 245 000 tpa, respectively.
During the last five fiscal years, Bord na Móna's production of milled peat has ranged from 2.7 to 5.1 million tonnes, with an average annual level of just over 4 million tonnes. Output of peat briquettes averaged 252 000 tpa. Sales of milled peat to power stations rose from just under 2 million tonnes in 2004/05 to nearly 2.8 million tonnes in 2005/06, reflecting the first full year of operation of the three new peat-fired plants.