€8bn investment in Irish wind farms
INTERNATIONAL RENEWABLE energy group Element Power plans an €8 billion investment in Ireland after signing a contract with the UK national grid.
The company proposes building 40 new wind farms in midland counties and channelling the energy to the UK market via dedicated sub-sea cables. It says the initiative will create 2,000 long-term jobs and as many as 10,000 jobs in the construction phase.
Element Power Ireland said it had signed a “firm grid connection of 3,000 megawatts” with National Grid UK.
A “firm” connection means the UK power market can take the output at all times, the firm said. This would enable £1.2 billion worth of energy exports from the Irish market, it added.
Peter Harte, chief technology officer at Element Power Ireland, said the company was talking to landowners in Meath, Westmeath, Laois, Offaly and Kildare about securing permission for the connected wind farms. He said one-third had signed up and others had agreed terms.
The company said it hoped to have all landowners it required signed up by the end of the year.
It also expects a decision from An Bord Pleanála within a couple of months on whether the project will come under the terms of the Strategic Infrastructural Development Act, allowing it to avoid an extended series of individual planning processes.
Mr Harte said Ireland was an ideal source of energy for the UK as there was a surplus here, with less wind required to satisfy domestic demand.
Element Power says the UK needs 30,000MW of new wind generation to meet its target of 15 per cent of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2020.
The UK figure is part of a broader EU target to generate 20 per cent of energy requirements from renewables by that date.
“The UK energy requirement has become Ireland’s opportunity; it makes perfect sense to capitalise on our geographic location and create an export industry,” said Element Power Ireland chief executive Tim Cowhig.
Mr Harte said existing interconnectors with the UK had capacity of just 500MW, which necessitated the construction of new cables. These would account for a quarter of the €8 billion investment.
Element Power established an Irish operation in 2010, built largely around Mr Cowhig, Mr Harte and Kevin O’Donovan, all formerly with green energy business SWS.
The project is the second large wind energy proposal for the midlands in as many months.
Former Bord na Móna chief executive Eddie O’Connor announced plans for a 5,000mw wind park last month, also targeting the UK market.