Ireland's largest wind farm opens in Co Donegal


Ireland's largest wind farm, five miles from Bally- bofey, Co Donegal, will be officially opened today.

The massive project has taken 11 months to complete and features some of the biggest turbines installed in Ireland or Britain. Twenty-three of the turbines have a hub height of 60m - the same as a 16-storey building - while the remainder are 48m high.

Developed by Airtricity at a cost of €86 million, it comprises 38 wind turbines with an installed capacity of 72 MW. Airtricity says it will generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 45,000 homes annually and will save the release of 200,000 tonnes of carbon monoxide.

The number of wind farms operating in Ireland is set to pass the 50 mark this year. The landscape of Donegal has been altered considerably with the construction of various wind farms over the past eight years. There are now almost 150 wind turbines operating at 12 different sites, and a third of Ireland's wind power is now generated in Donegal.

Although there were some concerns initially about the visual impact of such developments, there has been relatively little opposition to the most of the recent planning applications, with several projects are at various stages of the planning process.

Donegal has the highest mean wind speeds of any county in Ireland, making it particularly suitable for the generation of electricity from wind power.

The official opening of the Meentycat wind farm will be performed by television personality and well-known ecologist, Duncan Stewart.

The biggest turbines have an installed capacity of 2.3MW each - nearly five times more than many of the turbines on older wind farms built over the last ten years. According to Airtricty, it will provide much-needed power and will help security of supply in the area.

Almost 22km of roads were constructed to enable access to the 38 turbine foundations. The power from the turbines is transmitted to the national grid via a 110kV substation at Meentycat, a 5km 110kV overhead line and a 110kV substation at Drumkeen.

Airtricity developed the first wind farm in the Republic following the deregulation of the electricity industry at Culliagh, Co Donegal, in 2000. It now operates five in the Republic and also has wind farms in Northern Ireland and Scotland.

It has planning approval for farms at: Tournafulla, Co Limerick; Richfield, Co Wexford; Teevurcher, Co Meath; Bindoo/Ratrussan, Co Cavan; Tarbert, Co Kerry; Dunneil, Co Sligo, and Coomacheo, Co Cork.

According to the Irish Wind Energy Association, the installed capacity of wind farms in the Republic now stands at 338 MW while the figure for Northern Ireland is 84 MW.

Ireland's first wind farm was opened at Bellacorrick, Co Mayo, in 1993.