Ireland announces subsidies too

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The Republic of Ireland is about to boost its wind energy capacity with government support for some 30 MW of wind power. Other renewables are expected to contribute a further 45 MW towards the national target of 75 MW from alternative energy sources, said energy minister Noel Treacy when he announced details of Ireland's new Alternative Energy Requirement last month.

Ireland's Electricity Supply Board (EIB) is inviting competitive bids for 15 year contracts. The aim is to reach the 75 MW target with just one round of bids, but the option of a second solicitation has not been ruled out. A decision on the size of the megawatt allocation for each technology will be made when EIB has received all the tenders, but Treacy says he does not wish to see any one technology or developer dominate.

As well as the 30 MW from wind he has indicated that he expects some 10 MW from hydro, 20 MW from CHP and 15 MW from waste and other sources, including biomass. He has set a 15 MW limit on all projects and developers to encourage diversity and a minimum size of 1 MW for wind projects.

The cost of implementing the Alternative Energy Requirement is to be passed on to the consumer by EIB. Liam O'Donnell at EIB says support for developers will take two forms: fixed renewable energy tariffs and grant assistance. Tariff prices are expected to rise over 15 years from an average IR£0.04/kWh for wind and other renewables and IR£0.03/kWh for combined heat and power (CHP). The bidding process, however, is for a share of the grant aid fund of £15 million. Grants will be payable to developers over two years after commissioning.

The Irish Wind Energy Association welcomes the initiative, but is unhappy with the price on offer which it says is restrictively low compared with most other countries in Europe. The association's Joe O'Mahony says only high wind speed sites will be economic. "We will need wind speeds of at least 8.5 m/s to be viable at four pence a unit." He is confident, however, that there will be future renewables requirements. Existing developers will not qualify for support under the competition for contracts, but will be eligible for the revised tariff rates that come into force from 1995. Ireland has one major wind project, a 6.5 MW development of Nordtank turbines from Denmark installed in 1992.

Perhaps surprisingly, EIB seems undaunted at the prospect of paying for power from a competitor. "The EIB has been actively promoting renewable energy," says an enthusiastic O'Donnell. The tendering process will be completed and contracts signed by early 1995. New renewable capacity is to be in place by 1997, says Treacy.

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