Tuesday, 7 April 2015

One of Europe's leading renewable energy experts on the alternative to wind energy for Ireland

So if we have reached saturation point with wind energy as the evidence clearly shows, then what are Ireland's options for the future ?

Malcolm Brown, a director of BW Energy, has almost three decades experience in the international energy sector and low carbon economy. He therefore is a voice that carries a lot of weight in any debate on energy policy. He has now brought his expertise to bear on the current debate in Ireland.

New technologies will make cheaper green power and also protect the country's tourism

by Malcolm Brown, director BW Energy

THE Government is planning to erect hundreds of gigantic pylons as tall as Liberty Hall across Ireland as part of a € 3 billion network upgrade.

Up to 2,000 new wind turbines will be built through the country's beauty spots - and next to our world-famous racing stables.

Last week Eirgrid said it could consider technology that would mean no new pylons - but only in the South-East.

Ireland has an "all-wind strategy" to meet EU 2020 renewable "green power" targets. But these plans are now outdated and unnecessarily expensive. By the end of 2014, Ireland had installed more than 2,000 wind turbines in rural heartlands and was just halfway to its target of 40% of renewable electricity by 2020.

Meeting the target requires a doubling of onshore wind power. So, another 200 new wind farms involving 2,000 new turbines - to be subsidised by the ordinary bill payer.

And to carry all this extra power, high-voltage lines will be strung over 700km of countryside - on huge pylons up to 60m in height. More wind power requires more pylons because it is produced in remote places which are actually the heartlands of the vital horse and tourism industries.

The construction and operation of these turbines and pylons threatens the tranquillity essential for the equine and tourism industries.

Tourism is worth €3.4 billion to the economy and horse racing is worth another € 1 billion. Why threaten such vital industries, especially when there is no need to do so? And who will pay for all these new turbines scattered across a very beautiful countryside? It will be you, the ordinary electricity consumer through subsidies added to your bill.

In 2015, Irish electricity prices are amongst the highest in Europe. Irish householders pay 42% more for their power.

Fortunately, there are better, cheaper ways to meet EU "green power" demands. Technology today offers better solutions in transmitting and producing "green power".

Last week, EirGrid, which is responsible for Irish electricity transmission plans, announced that "developments in technology now allow us to achieve improved performance from existing transmission infrastructure". Modern technology called "series compensation" can put more power onto the system without the need for new infrastructure and there is also scope for more undergrounding of high-voltage cables. That means better value for electricity bill payers. The higher tech option at Grid Link - from Kildare to Wexford and onto Cork - would save € 300million compared to the original plan.

Improved technology has found a cheaper, better way of transmitting electricity. But hard-pressed Irish electricity bill payers should also be asking the question, "Can new technologies also help to actually produce subsidised 'green power' more cheaply?" The answer is a resounding "Yes".

Existing dirty coal-fired power stations can now be re-engineered to produce clean "green power" from sustainable biomass, or burning wood pellets. Ireland can meet her 2020 EU "green power" target in one fell swoop by converting the Moneypoint coal-fired power station in Co Clare to burn sustainable biomass.

With Moneypoint supplying up to 25% of Irish electricity demand from a single power station and being the country's largest single emitter of greenhouse gases, it has a key role to play in fighting climate change. It is economic common sense to re-engineer an existing power station to produce "green power".

Then use the same transmission system to deliver this power rather than spending billions of euros on doubling wind power and associated transmission investments.

And that way you also protect Ireland's stunning countryside, and its racing and tourism industries.

Republished from The Irish Mirror with kind permission from Malcolm Brown. 


  1. The DCENR are guessing that 2000 extra megawatts will achieve the 37% target. They are not allowing for the increasing inefficiencies caused as you increase wind capacity. They are not making any allowance for output losses as wind turbines age. The capacity required to achieve the 37% over a continuous number of years could be closer to 20,000 megawatts. Remember the DCENR have carrIed out NO FEASIBILITY STUDY AND NO COST BENEFIT ANALYSES. So they might as well be picking numbers of of a lucky dip when it comes to them, The DCENR, stating the capacity required. . Most people familiar with modeling product outputs would say that the target of 37% is impossible. Retool Moneypoint as quickly as possible is the best and only workable solution.

  2. Thomas Moore wrote a song about the Sweet Vale of Avoka in the 1820's . Percy French wrote the song The Mountains of Mourne. Johnny Cash wrote the song “ 40 Shades of Green” in 1961 and Commander Chris Hadfield spoke about how the view of Ireland from the International Space Station brightened up his orbital day. Tom McGuirke, journalist tried in vain to explain to a radio host how the Midland “Energy for Export” wind farm location was the stuff of song and poetry. County Wexford was chosen for the film “Saving Private Ryan”, The Maam cross area of Connemara was chosen for the John Ford produced classic film “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara. Ireland is like a delicate sister, who stays in her bedroom all winter to come out when you are cutting the hedge on a sunny April evening to tell you “you cut it crooked. “

    The beauty derives from the range of soils from the fertile deep loam soil of Meath to the lighter limestone free-draining plains of Kildare and Tipperary to the marginal mountainous areas of Down, Tyrone, Waterford and Kerry to the Midland and western peat bogs. When the sun comes out after soft rain an extravaganza of panoramic green / brown hues in the crisp air conveys the observer to his or her proper place as part of nature. The contrast of the people is no less varied. The love of animals, wildlife and story telling. Epitomised by the showcase of equine prowess at Cheltanham, the hard men of the all Island Rugby pack, the footballers and golfers. The Emerald Isle is as much a state of mind as of body. W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, J. B. Shaw, Padraic O'Conaire, Patrick Kavanagh, Saemus Heaney and of course James Joyce who evolved his literary scripts from a critique of the imperfections that created his environment to the erotic thought process of the brain, freed from its bodily constraints in Ulysses.

    A first time lady tourist from Detroit standing on Skellig Michael one June evening exclaimed, “I came to see what it's was all about, didn't quite get in Dublin, and then I arrived here. Now I do get it.” Never forming part of any parties election manifesto, laws are in place to protect the environment, but they are broken, ignored. The National Renewable Energy Action Plan involves 5,000 kilometers of cables, 800 kilometers of that to include large pylons and 4,000 massive turbines on an island 300 miles long by 200 miles wide. As if that were not enough, a further 2,500 turbines were muted for export to the UK to service the excessive commitments of Tony Blair while the EU appear to want total interconnection with Britain, France, Belgium, Holland and Germany. Hoping wires will hold the Union together, as the Berlin wall was supposed to do. The culprits are part of a hierarchy topped by aloof politicians Eamon Ryan, Pat Rabbitte, Alex White, Alan Kelly and Enda Kenny.

    In the film “Dances with Wolves”, Kevin Costner enters the world of the native Lakota (Sioux) Indians and comes across a scene where a herd of buffalo have been slaughtered for their pelts. He surmises “I don't know who they are, but I know what they are, they have no soul”.