Solar power would have softened recent electricity squeeze, developer claims

Statkraft Ireland MD says future fears around low power reserves can be avoided if more generating capacity put in place

Solar power could have eased the electricity supply bottlenecks that last week prompted warnings from the national grid, says one developer.

National electricity grid Eirgrid last week issued two alerts warning that high demand and low supply had left reserves lower than ideal, increasing the risk of power cuts should something go wrong.

Kevin O’Donovan, managing director of Statkraft Ireland, argued on Tuesday that solar power would have ensured there was enough supply to meet demand with adequate reserves.

Statkraft Ireland is building solar- and wind-powered generators in the Republic. According to Mr O’Donovan, his company and others are developing solar plants with a total capacity of 500 mega watts of electricity, enough to power up to 500,000 homes, at the moment.


“When these projects are operating, their benefits will become clear,” he said, stressing that if the same situation arose next summer then alerts would be unnecessary.

Mr O’Donovan added that there had been a lot of negative comment about renewable power lately.

The State did not include solar power in price-support schemes meant to encourage renewable development until it introduced a new system two years ago.

Since then, a number of solar farms – as they are dubbed – have won contracts to supply power to the national grid under the Renewable Energy Support Scheme.

Last week, low windspeeds, which cut electricity from most Irish renewable generators, a lack of imported supplies and conventional power plant shutdowns, increased pressure on the national grid.

However, several power plants that had been shut down restarted later in the week, bringing supplies and reserves back to normal levels.

Mr O’Donovan noted that planning problems continued to affect the speed at which developers could build renewable power plants.

He argued these would have to be addressed by keeping the public informed of the “big picture” and the need for Ireland to develop more renewable electricity to cut greenhouse gas emissions and ensure future security of energy supplies.

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O'Halloran

Barry O’Halloran covers energy, construction, insolvency, and gaming and betting, among other areas