Ireland opens the gate wider

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Up to 1000 MW of wind capacity may hook up to the electricity system in Ireland's latest round of connection applications, now being processed. Wind projects are being dealt with in geographical groups. This "group processing" approach was adopted by the system operators to resolve the backlog of applications that had built up during a year long moratorium on all new connections of wind plant.

In 2005, the first batch of applications for connection began to be dealt with in a process known as Gate 1. Out of 370 MW of connection offers, 265 MW have been accepted. The Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) now says that a further 500 MW of applications for connection will be processed in date order as part of Gate 2. It adds, however, that further applications which meet "certain system optimisation criteria" will also be included in Gate 2. This is expected to allow up to 1000 MW in total to be processed.

The CER will consult on the criteria shortly. "It has been difficult to decide what system optimisation is; but we know it will not satisfy everyone's needs," Michael Tutty of the CER told delegates at the Irish Wind Energy Conference in April.

According to Tutty, the regulator bowed to industry pressure in making Gate 2 larger. "In the process of consultations we were pressed to do more," he said. "We were listening and are moving to have more projects processed in Gate 2."

The combined capacity of wind projects either connected to the system or with current offers amounts to some 1300 MW. There are still nearly 3000 MW of wind applications for connection in waiting, Tutty revealed. This will easily allow Ireland to meet its EU target for 13.2% of electricity from renewables by 2010, which requires just 1300 MW of renewables.

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