Horse trainer’s wife Annemarie O’Brien backs converting electricity station from coal to biomass

A leading figure in Irish horseracing, Annemarie O’Brien, has backed a report on converting Ireland’s largest electricity station from coal to biomass.

Photo credit:At the launch of the energy report were, from left: Gary Jamison, HDS Energy, Prof Jimmy Burke of UCD, Dr Tony White of BW Energy, Annemarie O’Brien of Ballydoyle, and Malcolm Brown of BW Energy. Picture: Lorraine O’Sullivan

The wife of the horse trainer, Aidan O’Brien, said converting Moneypoint powerstation in Co Clare to sustainable biomass could save the landscape from a blight of wind turbines and pylons.

Ms O’Brien said plans to double wind power were not the way forward, saying it was too expensive and would scar the country’s landscape.

Her husband is the trainer at Ballydoyle Stables near Cashel in Co Tipperary for John Magnier and his Coolmore Stud associates.

The report was prepared by two energy specialists —Anthony White and Malcolm Brown from British-based BW Energy, a specialised energy consultancy.

It maintains that converting Moneypoint to sustainable biomass is the way to achieve Ireland’s 2020 renewable electricity targets more cheaply than doubling onshore wind power.

It claims that only limited modifications to the plant were needed and its biomass requirements could be met by converting 8% of agricultural land to energy crops.

Ms O’Brien said she bec-ame involved in the energy debate two years ago after discovering that the farm where she and her husband breed and raise thoroughbred foals was in the path of pylons planned to stretch from Kildare to Cork.

“If the project was given the go-ahead it would have rendered the land totally unfit for the purpose for which it is being used,” she said.

Moneypoint is Ireland’s largest single source of carbon dioxide emissions, producing 5m tonnes of carbon a year. It burns 2.5m tonnes of US coal each year.

The report points out that Drax power station in Britain, once Western Europe’s largest coalfired power station, converted to biomass in 2010.

Dr White claims converting the plant to biomass would cost about €350m, just over one 10th of the transmission reinforcement required for more wind energy.

The report argues that Ireland should offer long-term contracts to farmers to produce biomass, rather than give wind farm developers long-term fixed contracts. It says Ireland produces just more than a fifth (22.7%) of its electricity from renewables with onshore wind generation providing 80% of the green power in 2014. However, developments in sustainable biomass generation over the last five years mean it is now a cheaper way to meet the 2020 EU renewable electricity target than doubling onshore wind.

The report suggests that Moneypoint could initially operate on US-sourced biomass, switching to Irish sources as domestic supplies developed, or the conversion process could be staggered boiler by boiler, as native supplies became available.

Professor of crop science at UCD, Jimmy Burke, said the significant opportunity that a native biomass sector could provide had been largely ignored.

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