The Government is laying the groundwork for what it calls an “enduring regime” of wind power in Ireland that could eventually provide sufficient power for between 21 million and 49 million homes, the Minister for Energy has said.
Eamon Ryan said that Ireland’s target for wind power is 7 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 – enough to power about 5 million homes – but that the wind potential in the North Atlantic around Ireland is such that generating between 30GW and 70GW is achievable.
Mr Ryan was on Tuesday addressing the Hydrogen Ireland Conference at a hotel in Dublin. It was the first conference of its kind on this power source to be held in Ireland and attracted hundreds of delegates.
The Green Party leader said that when wind energy was scaled up there would both be variable supply and variable demand because of the sporadic nature of wind. He said that hydrogen would play a part – as would batteries – in converting wind energy into a storable form. In this conversion wind energy would be used to separate water into its elemental parts, allowing for hydrogen to be isolated and then stored.
In his address to the conference, Mr Ryan said that Ireland had developed onshore wind and was now moving on to the next phase which was offshore wind, solar power and storage. He said the first phase would take place next month with auctions for seven offshore projects. Six of them would be off the east coast (where there are shallow banks) with one on the west coast.
He said those projects need to begin delivering by 2026 or 2027 if Ireland is to meet its 2030 target for renewable energy.
The second phase, he said, would be identifying other locations in the Atlantic off the southwest, west and northwest coasts. He said areas would be designated where there was the greatest potential for wind power and to bring it to shore and into the grid. He said the designation would be controlled by the State. “It will not be a Klondike where everybody is rushing out,” he said.
Mr Ryan said the Government was committed to going “full tilt for what we call the enduring regime where we ramp up to 30GW and potentially 70GW of power”. At that vast scale of generation Ireland would be selling large surpluses of energy to other countries in the EU and to the UK, if efficient storage solutions could be found.
The Minister said that Phase 2 would not be contracted or agreed in the lifetime of this Government, but he wanted to give a clear direction of travel during its term. Turning to the potential of hydrogen, he said that converting offshore wind to hydrogen and other derivatives was “something that we can and will be good at”.
Mr Ryan told delegates it was the end of the road for a developer-led wind strategy. The State would take the risk of curtailment (when there is no wind, for example) when implementing the strategy. “It forces us to balance the use of that power in the middle of the night, or when there is curtailment…We want to reduce the risk. We devise the ways we use the power when we have surplus power.”
He said that battery storage as well as solar power would also need to be greatly scaled up. “The kitchen sink and more, the dishwasher, need to be thrown at it.”
Speakers from the ESB and Gas Networks Ireland told the conference separately that hydrogen would play a part in their strategies to reach net zero emissions.