WIND energy is saving up to €280,000 a day in fuel production – yet some wind companies are facing waits of up to 10 years before they can get connection to the national grid.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) has expressed concern at its autumn conference that these delays will undermine the long-term development of the sector unless tackled immediately and could culminate in paralysis in the run-up to the 2020 deadline, before which this country wants to have 40% of its energy needs from renewable resources.
Research by the IWEA carried out in July showed that wind energy made savings on fuel production costs of €212,000 – €280,000 per day. They also project that over the next 10 years, Ireland’s wind capacity should grow from 1,085 MW to approximately 6,250 MW; creating 10,700 jobs.
"This clearly demonstrates the real benefits that wind generation can deliver in reducing the cost of generating electricity.
"However, there is a real risk of a ‘boom and bust’ cycle in the sector due to delays in getting on the grid. For example, if as a wind energy producer, you applied for connection to the electricity grid in 2004, you could be waiting up to five years to get an offer of connection and then it could be another four or five years before that connection is physically completed," IWEA chief executive Michael Walsh said.
"The capital investments required are large and infrastructure delay often lags behind market demand here. There is also an issue with the Irish policy framework constantly changing."
A number of wind producers’ planning permission has run out by the time they get the offer of connection to the grid, Dr Walsh said, and they are being forced to apply for permission for a second time.
"It shouldn’t take that long ... We are having problems processing applications but another big problem is the difficulties that Eirgrid are having in getting their high capacity transmission lines built."
A spokeswoman for Eirgrid said Ireland needs 1,150km of new electricity circuits and the upgrading of a further 2,300 km – if we are to meet our 2020 targets. The spokeswoman said this was "a massive task" but that they were on target to achieve it.
The IWEA said there is "a lot of activity in the sector this year and a lot more planned for next year".
"Our fear is that if the delays lead to stagnation that a lot of the expertise that has been grown here will move elsewhere and we will end up hire companies from abroad in the long term".