Ireland’s Energy Sources: How Green is the Emerald Isle?

Posted by Katie Mason on Sep 28, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Inspired by a recent vacation to Ireland, I was compelled to research Ireland’s energy sources and what forms of renewable energy they are utilizing. Ireland is not a large country (slightly smaller than Indiana, geographically) and is not densely populated with the exception of a few cities. My vacation toured the southwest/western coast as well as Dublin on the east coast. In this blog post, I will discuss what I learned about Ireland’s energy sources and how the country is utilizing renewable energy.

Ireland's Energy Sources

According to NOW Ireland (the National Offshore Wind Energy Association of Ireland), the majority of Ireland’s energy is currently derived from the burning of fossil fuels (in homes or at power stations). This makes Ireland the fourth least energy secure country in Europe because they rely on fuel imports. EirGrid and SONI are the two groups that manage the electricity grid in Ireland. SONI operates for Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) and EirGrid is responsible for the rest of the island. I was extremely impressed with the Smart Grid Dashboard available on their website which allows the user to view all of the real time system information, including demand and generation. The following is a snapshot from this dashboard showing the real time fuel mix as of September 26, 2016 for the entire island:

IrelandFuelMix.pngSource: http://smartgriddashboard.eirgrid.com/#all/generation?scroll=fuel

Renewable Energy and Targets

The largest source of renewable energy in Ireland is wind energy, both on and off shore. According to the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, “wind capacity has increased to 2,400 MW across the island of Ireland.” This increase has occurred over the past 10 years. Similar to other European countries, Ireland has signed on to a 2020 renewable electricity target. Europe’s overall target is 20% renewable by 2020 - Ireland’s contribution is to raise their percentage to 16%. In order to reach this goal, “the build rate of onshore wind farms must accelerate from a historic average of 180 MW per year to at least 250 MW per year.”[1] With the potential of more onshore and offshore wind farms, Ireland has the ability to reach this goal and possibly surpass it. Currently, Phase 1 of the Arklow Bank Project completed in 2004 is the only constructed offshore wind farm for Ireland. Phase 1 uses 7 turbines to generate 25 MW; however, the entire proposed project for this area could provide approximately 500 MW of offshore wind power. There are other future potential sites for offshore wind farms as well, but planning is taking a lot of time due to funding and the controversy behind offshore wind farms.

ArklowBank.pngArlow Bank wind project - image courtesy http://www.rechargenews.com/wind/1405405/pilot-to-kick-start-870mw-ireland-offshore-wind-project

With 2020 fast approaching, I look forward to seeing how Ireland’s plan for creating more renewable energy unfolds. It is promising to see how much they are already doing to reach their target.

[1] http://www.dccae.gov.ie/energy/en-ie/Renewable-Energy/Pages/Wind-Onshore-Landing-Page.aspx

Topics: Sustainability, Public Policy

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