This will require 4.65GW of installed capacity, up from today’s 1.43GW. Onshore wind farms will provide most of the new capacity, 4.1GW, 555MW offshore.
For this to happen, onshore wind must almost double its recent growth rate, and add 320MW yearly. Problems securing finance has slowed the market but Michael Walsh, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, expects 250MW to 300MW to be completed this year.
The main hitch is the weakness of large parts of the island country’s grid. Most of the new build needed for the 2020 targets, up to 4GB, will be connected under the network companies’ third process, Gate 3, in addition to more than 1GW under earlier gate processes. The timetable for access via Gate 3 is determined by the rate at which new network reinforcements can be built.
Without grid constraints, the national plan claims, by 2020 Ireland could be an exporter of wind-generated electricity from 7.1GW of installed capacity. This would require further deep reinforcements onshore and more interconnectors with Great Britain and Europe, beyond the 500MW east-west link with Wales, due in 2012.
Walsh is confident that Ireland will meet its target. "If we can overcome the challenges in the next couple of years, we’re in a strong position to develop a substantial onshore industry and a large offshore one," he says. "The sites are there, the projects and developers are there and the will is there with key stakeholders and officials."
Ireland exceeded its 2010 target of 13.2% of electricity from renewables, achieving some 15%. "We are optimistic the new government after the February 2011 election will continue to progress the policies," says Walsh.