Survey of Energy Resources 2007
Wind Country Notes
Ireland's prevailing south-westerly winds from the Atlantic Ocean give a feasible wind resource that has been estimated to be as high as 179 GW, or some 40 times the country's current generating capacity.
This abundant wind supply began to be utilised, albeit rather poorly, in the early 1980s with several demonstration schemes. The detailed investigations that followed included the establishment of the Irish Wind Atlas and, in 1996 the Government's Alternative Energy Requirement (AER I) competition. The market support mechanism of AER I in which 15-year power purchase agreements were awarded to renewable electricity generators has been repeated in further programmes - AER II to AER VI. In 2005 it was announced that the support mechanism to follow AER VI would be based on a fixed feed-in tariff system over a 15-year period but only applying to new capacity projects.
The Government's Renewable Energy strategy, as contained in the 1999 Green Paper and subsequently the 2000 National Climate Change Strategy, specified a target of an additional 500 MW of installed renewable electricity generating capacity to be in place in the period 2000-2005.
The country is also working with the 2001 EU Directive of meeting 13.2% of its electricity generation from renewables by 2010. No target has been specifically set for wind power but it is considered that this resource will make the greatest contribution and the Government has agreed with the relevant parties to work to a figure of 1 100 MW of installed capacity.
By end-2005 capacity stood at 496 MW, a total of 676 MW of capacity was already contracted to be grid-connected by 2011 and some 3 000 MW had been applied for and was in the process of being assessed. By end-2006 installed capacity had climbed to 745 MW.
At the present time, the majority of installed capacity relates to onshore wind turbines but the first phase of the Arklow Bank offshore plant became operational in June 2004. The 25 MW (7 x 3.6 MW) plant, located off the east coast of Ireland in the Irish Sea was co-developed by GE Energy and Airtricity as a demonstration plant. Testing of this first phase will take place for approximately two years, after which a much larger plant may be developed. In 2003 Airtricity agreed with GE Energy to purchase the plant following the testing phase. A new company, Zeusford (50% Airtricity, 50% EHN of Spain) has proposed the expansion of Arklow Bank to a 200 turbine wind farm with a nominal capacity of 520 MW. Some 10% of national electricity demand could be met if the plan comes to fruition.