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Tuesday January 29, 2013 23:10 by T
Is this the solution to the energy crisis?
Last Thurs 24th Jan 2013, the Irish and British governments agreed on a memorandum of understanding for energy trading between Ireland and the UK. This will pave the way for the export of Wind Energy to the UK. This would likely make use of the electric interconnector completed last year between the UK and Ireland although it may need additional cables.
The wind resource in Ireland is probably greater than what the Irish electrical grid can cope with and hence the idea is that the surplus wind energy can be exported to the UK which has a far larger electrical demand than here and could probably take every watt exported.
Unfortunately it seems that there is a bit more to this though the official green good news because apparently there are plans by a number of companies to erect up to 2,300 wind turbines in the Midlands of Ireland. Is blighting our landscape for the UK the way to solve the energy problem?
There was a followup article in the Irish Times on Mon 28th Jan titled: "Wind farms 'an Irish solution to British problem' by Frank McDonald and they quoted Andrew Duncan, spokesman for the Lakelands Wind Information Group in Co Westmeath who said: “It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem - politically, they don’t want turbines in the British countryside.”
It seems that opposition has been growing in the UK over the erection of large wind turbines and the UK was finding it hard to meet its own targets. This is reasonably understandable given that they population density is about 8 times higher in the UK whilst in Ireland there have been few objections and so far there are approximately 1,000 wind turbines for a total capacity of approximately 2000 MW. However last summer (2012) a new group urging responsible engagement with Wind Energy was formed representing community groups in 13 counties from Donegal to Wexford. Their website is: http://www.crewe-ireland.org/
From the British perspective having a link to Ireland is ideal because the wind is a bit stronger and more frequent here and the landscape is less populated and the level of objections is really quite low. Hence the interest in pouring money into huge projects here and exporting the power. Over the past 10 to 20 years, the average physical size and generating capacity of wind turbines has been increasing and a typical turbine is rated at about 2.5 MW at full capacity for a structure that is 185 metres (or ~600 ft) high. However it is not exactly clear why the Midlands were picked over the coastal areas as wind speeds would be a bit less although it is likely this may relate to land prices or rental.
One of the companies involved in the midlands scheme is Element Power.
So on face value this all seems like a great thing. More green energy is going to be generated as a number of coal plants in the UK reach the end of their lives and Ireland gets to export power and potentially earns some money and creates some jobs. So what's the problem?
The problem needs to be put in context. One of the major global problems relates to energy use and generating power from non-polluting and sustainable resources is the goal. But if we have to completely plaster the landscape in renewable "devices" then surely we have just created another problem. And if we expect energy consumption to continue to grow -which is expected -then can there ever be enough renewable energy?
Indeed do the Irish people want to surrender their landscape to solve a British problem? The obvious answer would be the central and highest priority goal of every country would be to reduce energy consumption. So far example instead of say everyone having an electric car which would use a lot of energy, if instead public transport was greatly increased -say tripled or quadrupled and made electric, it would still require vastly less electric power than so many personnel transport devices -i.e cars. But the problem with this is that car manufacturers don't get to continue business as usual -which is building (slightly different) cars. It challenges the system.
The second obvious thing is that we would have proper planning guidelines and procedures and right to appeal by local citizens where these wind turbines will be sited. Given the recent madness and reckless building that occurred during the property boom, it is a certainty that the smell of money changing hands will run roughshod over peoples rights and concerns. Besides we can expect the usual gushing PR campaigns about how good all of this is and there will be no real effort to examine this properly.
There was also an earlier article back on Oct 8th 2012 by Frank McDonald in the Irish Times titled: Wind energy industry set for massive expansion
There was even earlier coverage of this proposal more than 18 months ago back in 18th June 2011 in the Guardian in an article titled: UK urges Ireland to build windfarms on west coast
It can be found at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/18/ireland-wind-power-grid
For those interested the official press release on this can be found at:
And in summary form:
For information on the existing UK-Eire Electrical Interconnector see: