Record power generation from wind last month has led to renewed calls for an overhaul of the planning system for renewable energy projects.
New data shows that wind energy provided 32 per cent of Ireland's electricity in April, the most power ever provided by wind in the month of April and follows a strong first quarter where wind provided around 39 per cent of Ireland’s electricity.
Wind Energy Ireland, the representative body for the wind industry said the large volume of wind energy produced last month helped to push down the average wholesale price of electricity for the month of April to €218.26 from its record high in March. However, the figure is still a 155 per cent increase in prices from April 2021 which the group said highlights Ireland’s continued reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Global inflation and the Russian-Ukraine Conflict have seen wholesale gas and oil prices reach record levels this year impacting manufacturing, transport and households. Figures from the Central Statistics Office show wholesale electricity costs faced by businesses have trebled in the past year.
Ireland has set a target of generating 80% of electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind power by 2030. Wind generation from turbines on and off shore are seen as a key element towards reaching this goal.
Ireland’s maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass. Combined with our geographic location on the Atlantic means the offshore wind potential is significant.
Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said progress is being made each month to cut our carbon emissions and help insulate Irish consumers from the worst effects of the country's dependence on expensive imported gas.
“Every new wind farm and solar farm connecting to the electricity system helps to make Ireland more energy independent. We need to accelerate the development of clean, cheap, renewable energy to push fossil fuels out of the electricity market.
However, he said the pace of development of new renewable energy projects was being hampered.
“Our planning system must be reformed and properly resourced to ensure that the renewable energy projects needed by the Climate Action Plan can get properly, but quickly, examined and we can move forward with getting those projects built.”
In March the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan announced a new consenting regime that he said would streamline the development process of renewable energy projects.
He said the first Maritime Area Consents (MACs) would be issued in the second half of this year.
Energy giant Shell has acquired a 51% stake in two wind farms planned off the Cork and Clare coasts being developed by Cork firm the Simply Blue Group. Both projects will have a capacity of 1.35gw, enough to power 1,145,000 homes each. The ESB is developing a large offshore wind farm in two phases off the Cork coast called Celtic Offshore. A number of other offshore wind projects are currently in the pipeline with various planned completion dates.
At the same time, port companies around the country are preparing plans to put in place the required infrastructure to develop, maintain and service such developments.
However, the power supplied from such projects can vary significantly each month. Wind energy provided 53% of power during a gusty February but fell back to 33% in March.