Friday, 9 February 2018

Wind Farm that caused huge landslide makes losses for ESB

Photo : Irish Examiner

The Commission claims also that the construction of the wind farm required the destruction of large areas of coniferous forest amounting to 263 hectares.
 The Commission adds that, after the landslide which occurred on 16 October 2003 and the consequent ecological disaster, when the mass of peat which was dislodged from an area under development for the wind farm polluted the Owendalulleegh river, causing the death of about 50 000 fish and lasting damage to the fish spawning beds, Ireland carried out no fresh environmental impact assessment of this construction before the resumption of work on the site by the developer in 2004 [European Court Ruling 2008].

The construction of Derrybrien wind farm in 2003 caused a huge landslide resulting in the ecological disaster described above by the European Courts of Justice. Ten years later, Ireland still has not complied with their ruling and the EU are now seeking to impose fines on Ireland of €2 million.  

The wind farm was the largest in Europe at the time with 70 vestas turbines (of 0.85MW each) giving a total output of 59.5MW. It began operation in 2006. Ten years later in 2016, the accounts show that the wind farm was making a loss of €2.3 million. Turnover dropped by 25% to €5m and operating costs increased by 17% to €6.3m from 2015.  The company is owned by ESB and €20m in loans are still outstanding to them. It cost €64m to build. 

The above graph compares the load factor (actual output / maximum output) for Derrybrien and the national average as published by Eirgrid since 2010. The load factor has dropped significantly in the past two years to 23% in 2016, which was less than the national average of 28%. Not great for a wind farm located in the windy west of Ireland.  It could be that these particular wind turbines lose capacity over time. The first indication of a loss in capacity occurred in 2015 after eight years of operation. The national average was high at 33% whilst Derrybrien had a load factor 20% less at 26%. 

A loss of wind turbine capacity means higher maintenance costs and this is reflected in the accounts where operating costs have increased to €6.3m from €5.4m in 2016.   

The obvious question that needs to be asked about all this is are the massive environmental impact of wind farms built in such delicate areas worth it ? Whilst ESB will probably absorb  these losses who finally pays ? ESB is 95% owned by the Government

National Load Factors - Page 24 here.

Load factors for Derrybrien wind farm for 2015 and 2016 as per published accounts, other years were estimated based on annual turnovers.


  1. In the Danish Data over a period of 2 years ,for this particular wind turbine , output drops of 74% can be observed . Which questions its durability. Capacity factors this low for a wind farm in the west, on the side of a hill, should be of concern the wind industry .Particularly given that it is only ten years old. You would need a high capacity factor to have a chance of making a profit. Capacity factors in the Midlands will be lower and the developments costs will at least the same if not higher. So what is the rational for building wind farms in the Midlands? Which will produce very low output and operate most likely at a loss.

    1. The madness called the EU Renewable Energy Directive!

  2. I already posted here that I conducted research of likely load factors in Ireland and came up with 24% for 2008 and 2009. The reason Derrybrian is making a loss is because the wind is not blowing at speeds which were predicted by Eirgrid (over 30%). 24% can not make a profit. If East winds come this year, the situation might improve by 2 %. There have been no East winds since 2006. The subsidies are fixed must take which means without wind, losses are make. One in 5 households are now in arrears with their bills. So the rest are subsidizing them. Meanwhile planning applications for more and more wind farm are being lodged hard and fast.

  3. According to to-day Tuesday's Irish Independent business section, National Toll Roads are seeking investment to plough into wind farms. Currently Gaelectric is up for sale in what is close to a fire sale. Why is NTR not buying their wind farms? They are ready to go, owe 30 million euros and not making a profit. So why are NTR investing in newer versions of the same facility?

  4. There is something very wrong with the above graph. I am a keen observer of Irish wind conditions. I study for 2008 and 2009 found load factors of 24.1%. 2013 might have been marginally higher. There is no possible way Derrybrian achieved factors of 42%. There was a cold windy start to 2013 and it was generally unsettled. However, at best factors were in the order of 26% at best. I will try ans do a study of other wind farms, they should all be showing high factors for this year. It will take time, but something is wrong.

    1. The load factor for this year was not published so was estimated based on turnover. There was some accounting adjustments going on with deferred income so it could have led to a higher load factor being estimated than it actually was.