Reaching significant Steady series of small scale development -- penetration

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In its most productive year to date, Ireland's wind industry built 16 new projects in 2006 with a combined installed capacity of 231 MW, up 50% on the previous year. The new projects bring Ireland's wind power to 756 MW, some 11% of the country's total generating capacity.

Around 50% of the wind capacity installed last year is supported under Ireland's new Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT) which came into effect during the year. This guarantees a fixed price to generators based on technology and, in the case of wind, the size of the project. Large wind projects of 5 MW and over receive EUR 0.057/kWh and small wind EUR 0.059/kWh. The other projects completed during 2006 were developed under the now defunct Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) system of competitive tendering.

The government's aim in introducing the REFIT is to boost the share of electricity supplied from renewable energy to 15% by 2010. This new goal -- which replaces the country's previous 13.2% target -- is a key plank of the government's new energy policy set out in its sustainable energy green paper published during the year. It also set a 30% target for 2020. Despite the country's rising demand for electricity, Ireland looks to be on track to meet these targets. By the end of 2006, 550 MW of wind under development had signed contracts to connect to the power system. An additional 1300 MW is expected to receive connection offers this year under the second round of processing applications for connection -- known as "Gate Two." This capacity could begin to generate from 2009 and 2010, says transmission system operator Eirgrid. Beyond this, a further 1946 MW of wind is in the queue for connection offers.

Wind development in Ireland is characterised by mostly small-scale independent players. True to form, 2006 revealed a wide spread of interests. But the largest chunk of capacity was built by Ireland's leading wind developer, Airtricity. Its two projects totalling 55 MW represent nearly 25% of the year's total. They include the largest to be built -- the 48 MW Bindoo wind plant.

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