With electricity generation playing the biggest part in meeting Ireland's target under the EU renewable energy directive, wind power is set for a starring role in the country's energy scene over the next decade. The directive requires renewable energy sources (RES) to supply 16% of the country's energy by 2020, up from 3.1% in 2005. Much of the policy to achieve this is already in place.
In terms of electricity, the Irish government wants RES to supply 40% of 2020's forecast demand, which it estimates will be around 32 TWh. The International Energy Agency believes total demand will be more like 40 TWh. Either way wind is expected to meet over 90% of the RES electricity target, generating somewhere between 12-15 TWh a year.
Ireland may not boast much in the way of conventional energy resources but, sited at the northwest tip of Europe, it has ample wind. "While we expect wind to be dominant, we do not know how wave and tidal will develop," says Eugene Dillon of the Department of Communications, Energy and National Resources (DCENR). "We would anticipate an increased contribution from those technologies."
At least 5800 MW of renewables capacity needs to be operating by 2020 to meet Ireland's electricity target for the sector. There is already sufficient wind capacity operating or in development, with contracts offered or expected in the upcoming third round of processing, known as Gate 3, to meet the goal (table). In addition, connection applications have been made by developers with plans for a further 5000 MW.
Even allowing for a proportion of the projects failing to complete, the targeted volume of capacity is likely to be achieved, says the government. But it is going to be contingent on up to a couple of hundred kilometres of transmission being built, points out Michael Walsh of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA).
The transmission system operator, Eirgrid, published its strategy for developing the grid out to 2025 last year, taking into account the government's goal for 40% of electricity supply to come from renewable energy sources. "The key now is to follow that through and get the next stage right," says Walsh.
Meanwhile, the current system of offering fixed power purchase prices for renewables will continue to be the main support mechanism. Currently wind power producers receive EUR64-66/MWh, less than the average wholesale market price for electricity. DCENR's Dillon admits the system may need tweaking to ensure the annual installation levels needed up to 2020 are achieved.
Janice Massy, Windpower Monthly.