NATIONAL grid operator Eirgrid looks set to give the green light to a major 280m project designed to enhance the potential for wind farms in the southwest.
The plan, which is being promoted by Cork-based wind farm operator Enerco Energy, involves the construction of two new pumped storage electricity stations.
Pumped storage stations operate by pumping water up to a high-level reservoir at times of low demand before releasing it through turbines to a second, lower reservoir whenever necessary to generate electricity.
The stations, which will be located at Knocknagreenan and Kippagh Lough in County Cork, will be the first such stations built in this country since 1974. The plants will generate around 70 megawatts (MW) each.
According to Enerco's technical adviser, Eamon McKeogh, the aim of the project is to provide backup power which can replace the energy generated by wind farms when the weather is calm.
He said this would also allow extra wind capacity to be added to the national grid without sacrificing the reliability of power supplies.
McKeogh believes around 500MW worth of pumped storage generators will need to be built if Ireland is to achieve its target of generating 33% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
"As you bring more and more wind onto the national grid, you create variability problems but pump storage can act as a solution to this problem, " he said.
"[Our] storage is specifically designed to meet the requirements of variable inputs of wind power to the national electricity grid system 24 hours a day."
A spokesman for Eirgrid said the operator expected to offer connections to the national grid for Enerco's plants in the near future.
He indicated that the grid operator hoped to encourage further pumped storage projects in the future.
"Electricity cannot be stored as electricity in large quantities but such installations provide a method of storing energy in the form of water."