Fixed purchase price fires up the market -- Solid progress for Ireland

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Ireland's wind industry saw a year of steady progress in 2005 with 158 MW of new capacity. It brings total installed wind power to 525 MW, supplying some 4% of the country's total electricity consumption.

In an eventful year for the industry, energy minister Noel Dempsey outlined a new support mechanism for renewables -- a fixed power purchase price. The government's aim is to fire up the market to allow Ireland to meet its EU target of 13.2% of electricity from renewables by 2010. Renewable operators can expect EUR 0.057 per unit of renewable electricity from large wind and EUR 0.059 for small wind projects. According to the government, the new tariff system will be launched "in a matter of weeks," once legal clearance has been obtained. Paddy Teahon, president of the Irish Wind Energy Association, says up to 250 MW of wind is to be installed under the new system in 2006.

Also last year, the two year moratorium on grid connection offers for wind projects was lifted. Alarmed at the number of wind projects applying for grid connection offers, the grid operators called in December 2003 for a halt to all new connections. Around 2500 MW of wind is applying to be connected to the transmission and distribution networks. Now ESB National Grid and ESB Networks have resumed connecting new projects -- adopting a more orderly approach and grouping projects geographically. Eirgrid's attitude to wind energy has improved significantly, says Teahon. "They have some young engineers now who see the challenge of finding new ways to connect wind [to the system] as an opportunity to show what they can do," he says.

Derrybrien, Hibernian Power's troubled wind farm in Galway, was at last completed during the year -- and at 60.35 MW it was the largest. Derrybrien had been delayed by a land slide in October 2003 when thousands of tonnes of peat and debris slipped down the mountain, blocking roads and polluting fisheries. The peat-slide was triggered by construction of the wind farm.

Vestas continued as most favoured turbine supplier, securing almost 50% of business last year. Gamesa, Enercon and GE are all making significant inroads into the Irish market.

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