Ireland has the potential to roll out renewable energy on a large scale within 10 years, global experts on wind energy say.
Up to 900 leading wind energy scientists and engineers from 38 countries are to visit Cork this week for the four-day Wind Energy Science Conference, which began on Monday.
Organised on behalf of the European Academy of Wind Energy (EAWE) in association with MaREI, the SFI Research Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy, the conference is the largest ever held in Cork.
Topics on the agenda include the development of floating wind turbines and the potential for offshore wind energy in Ireland.
Aidan Cronin, chairman of the European Technology and Innovation Platform on Wind Energy (ETIPWind), said Ireland has huge resources at its disposal, but warned “you almost have to bring the public along first, because politicians will never do anything that is risky in the short term".
But Ireland is an incredibly dynamic country with a young, multicultural population, and I don’t think it’s a great jump to convince them [wind energy] is a good idea. Like our grass for dairy is there for the taking, so is our wind energy potential. I think within ten years, with the right policies, it could really roll out a lot.
Several delegates agreed that noise and visual pollution are issues for those who have wind turbines located near their houses, and said more needs to be done to address concerns.
Bonnie Ram of the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of Delaware said a study has been carried out in Delaware involving speaking to local mayors, decision makers, NGOs and citizen groups: “Some of them had no idea that there was actually a lease for an offshore site off their coast as no-one had spoken to them.
"Those small efforts are what is needed, engaging with the community early on. There needs to be more conversation on why we are doing this, what we’ve done so far, how we’ve done it without certain costs etc.”
Ms Ram added that cooperative models like those used in countries like Denmark are not working as effectively due to the expanding nature of the industry: “Developers are larger and not just the local farmer anymore. Offshore is now a billion euro industry, so models of people giving €5 don’t work anymore. Now you see developers offering community benefits, like building a sports centre in the community, and I think that’s what you’ll see more of."
Conference chairman, Dr Cian Desmond, a Research Fellow in UCC, said: “This conference, the largest ever in Cork, is the culmination of 10 years in research and develoment on a European level. To provide innovative solutions, we need to start conversations between diverse scientific groups and forge new collaborative research relationships."