A record 460 people and 30 exhibitors attended this year's Irish wind energy conference in Dublin -- up 40% on last year's figures. The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) reports that it sold out of spaces and had to turn potential participants away from the event held March 26-27. The conference examined how Ireland is to reach its 40% renewables target for 2020. This will require around EUR 12 billion of investment for 6.5 GW of renewable capacity. Yet under current policies, lack of available grid capacity in the early and middle years of the next decade will mean that a huge step-up in installations is needed in 2018 to meet the target, warned Michael Walsh from IWEA. He called for an alternative strategy to deliver 11.5% increases in capacity year on year to allow timely supply chain investment and create jobs to meet the steady growth -- and aid Ireland's economic recovery sooner. Outlining a number of elements that need to be in place, he said the key was grid access. Substantial grid upgrades must be in place by 2016, but some connections could be offered earlier with the network managed more actively by the system operator until new grid capacity is built, such as stopping turbines for short periods as and when capacity runs out on congested parts of the network. Wind operators would have to accept a couple of years of contracts for some projects without firm access to the grid. The constraint costs would only amount to around 1-2% of the project's development cost, but the benefits to Ireland of the steady roll-out of new capacity would more than compensate for that, he said. Walsh also urged the government to activate the Renewable Energy Development Group to monitor progress. The group has not met for six months, he pointed out.