Last year (2016), electricity demand in Ireland rose by about 2.3%. An additional 600MW of wind was added to the system but the capacity factor (a measure of the annual output from wind farms) fell from 33% to 27%. Also during 2016 the limit on the amount of wind allowed into the system at any one time (non synchronous penetration) was raised from 50% to 55% and then at the end of the year to 60%.
According to reports by the EPA, emissions and fuel consumption increased in eight out of the eleven power stations for which records were available for 2016.
Six of these power stations were operated by gas, the other three by oil. Poolbeg (gas), Tarbert (oil) and North Wall (gas) power stations had the largest rises in emissions. Aghada (gas) and Tarbert (oil) power stations had the highest emissions since 2011, while Rhode power station (oil) had the highest since 2007.
Emissions Increase 2016 Vs 2015
Highest Emissions Since
Commissioned in 2015
Light Fuel Oil
Heavy Fuel Oil / Light Fuel Oil
Light Fuel Oil
Note the three oil run power stations at the bottom all had the highest emissions for many years.
Factors that lead to these increases were :
• The interconnector to the UK was out for four months at the end of 2016. This would partly explain the increases in Dublin power stations such as Poolbeg and North Wall.
• Electricity demand increasing by 2.3%. With new data centres on the way, demand will soon increase by much more than that.
• Capacity Factor of wind dropping from 33% to 27%. It's an unfortunate fact that no matter how many wind farms there are, if there is no wind, you get no energy. Storage wont fix this problem either as the original energy source is still intermittent wind energy that can remain flat for months on end during periods of high pressure.
• The low price of oil and gas.
• The low capacity credit of wind energy. Ireland now has 3,000MW of wind, but all these wind turbines cannot replace a single power station. All the power stations must remain on standby. An additional 600MW of wind was added in 2016, roughly a 25% increase on 2015. The only solution for this is nuclear. A nuclear power station can fully replace an existing power station and hence achieves much greater and much more consistent fuel and emissions savings in the long run than wind ever can.
How ironic that Ireland is now dependent on oil again for it's electricity needs after spending close to €6 billion on wind technology and another billion or two on grid upgrades to accommodate this wind. If this is not an indictment of the wind program, then I don't know what is.
1) EPA Environmental Reports
2) Eirgrid Renewable Energy Curtailment Report 2016
3) Cost of wind is estimated to be €2 million per MW installed.