IRELAND must plan for a "multiple" of its current wind energy capacity on the national electricity grid if it is to continue to thrive as an economy. That was the message from Eamon Ryan Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources atMeitheal na Gaoithe's recent annual conference.
The Minister was one of many important guest speakers at the Irish Wind Farmers Cooperative Society conference in the Anner Hotel, Thurles. It attracted a high level of interest as speakers and presentations addressed critical issues facing renewable energy generators, grid access and the future of energy in Ireland.
The meeting also discussed Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) and single electricity market (SME).
"After a decade of talking about renewable energy its time to walk the walk", said Tommy Cooke, Chairman Meitheal na Gaoithe (MnaG) before the conference. "There is an unprecedented interest in renewable energy, as concerns about fossil fuel prices and the environmental impact of global warming has raised renewable energy to the top of the public agenda."
On the day, Minster Ryan stated that he has a vision for Ireland becoming a net exporter of energy in the future. These views were shared by Dr Josef Pesch, an international expert in the wind energy field. Dr Pesch said that Ireland needs a clear cut grid connections strategy that allows wind power and other renewable forms of power to connect to the grid in a quick and efficient manner. MnaG members heard the Minister give strong expressions of his support for the development of the industry. However, members expressed concerns about wind farmers who are frustrated with the long delays of up to eight years to build grid connections and the poor price for renewables which do not reflect current project costs.
Mr Cooke said: "Small scale and local developers are now under severe pressure due to the lack of performance on grid connection and Renewable Energy Feed in Tariff (REFIT) price issues. It is now taking longer to build wires than roads and this is a totally unacceptable situation. Most people are astonished at the grid connection situation as it is so expensive and goes beyond the wind farm planning permit expiry dates, thus adding more risk and cost."
Guest speaker Michael Tutty, a member of the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), demonstrated the CER commitment to the government renewable targets. Speakers from ESB Networks outlined the enormous tasks they face due to the build up of applications for grid connection.
MnaG has noted that onshore wind energy is the most economical and the fastest growing renewable technology in Ireland and can potentially meet a substantial amount of our electricity needs. However to accommodate this, Ireland needs a progressive grid connection policy and a viable market price for renewable electricity.
Ireland is now 90% dependent on imported fossil fuels, and the cost of oil to industry has seen a 45% increase in the period between 2000 and 2007