On RTÉ TV’s Eco Eye programme on Tuesday, presenter Duncan Stewart talked about the future of electricity generation in Ireland.
Mr Stewart visited several wind farms, including a huge facility in Co Galway (which produces more power than Galway can use), and discussed the pros and cons of wind turbine power generation.
Duncan also visited the Eirgrid control room in Dublin, and on the (November) day of his visit (all) Ireland’s cohort of wind turbine generators (WTGs) had been “producing almost 60% of Ireland’s electricity demand”.
He was told that the grid “can accept up to 65% of the system demand at any particular time from wind”.
Beyond that, the national grid will need to have a very expensive upgrade, otherwise, some WTGs will have to be stopped when too much wind is blowing across the country. The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) have estimated they supplied 30% of all Ireland’s electricity requirements during 2019, in a recent report.
The irony of the renewable power is that at time that Eco Eye was being transmitted (on RTÉ 1 TV, on Tuesday evening) the situation regarding the grid was “precarious”.
I checked Eirgrid’s dashboard and found (of around 5,000 megawatts (MWs) of the capability of installed WTGs) the amount of renewable wind energy electricity generation was less than 8% of system demand at evening peak — 438 MWs (versus a grid demand of 5,843 MWs).
What astounded me most was the 976 MWs of imported electricity (via undersea interconnectors) which Eirgrid was depending on, to meet the electricity demand during the day.
This imported power means that Ireland was far from self-sufficient in electricity source availability from thermal and other national means. It has been my experience that imported electricity costs around 50% more than that which has been home-produced.
This must lead to higher ESB bills, in due course.
Those environmentalists — who are against importing fracked natural gas or exploration for hydro-carbons off the Irish coast — who were using electricity during recent days, might consider that some of that needed power might be emanating from Polish coal (generation) and/or French nuclear sources.
During one of the coldest weekends and weeks of this winter, I’ve noticed there has hardly been a ripple on Cork Harbour water over several days.
On Tuesday morning, all of the WTGs installed in Ringaskiddy industrial area were not turning. Meanwhile, the Bord Gais gas-fired generator at Whitegate was seen to be blasting out steam, as it was being brought on to meet demand load.
- This reader's opinion was originally published in the letters page of the Irish Examiner print edition on 25 January 2020.