Wind power has garnered huge interest in Ireland to help meet our green energy obligations due to the favourable weather conditions for wind power generation in Ireland.
Wind turbines generate electricity in a similar manner to traditional power plants. Wind speeds of 10-90 kph turn the turbine blades around a rotor which is attached to a generator. The spinning of the generator produces electricity which can be used in our homes and businesses. There can be variations in turbine design but all follow this basic principle. It is explained in a bit more detail in the video below.
Currently most renewable energy projects globally are made possible through renewable energy auctions. Various companies bid at these auctions to sell renewable electricity to the national grid at a certain price per kWh. This ensures that renewable energy producers are guaranteed to make money off renewable energy production, thereby encouraging the establishment of more solar and wind farms. These auctions are being introduced to Ireland following the announcement of the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme in July 2018.
Governments fund these auctions often by increases in electricity prices or through taxation. Critics of wind power will often proclaim the industries reliance on auctions and subsidies as a major disadvantage of wind energy. However, prices are falling rapidly and it is hoped that soon companies will build wind farms without the need for subsidies or competitive auctions.
Onshore Wind Power
Onshore wind farms are the largest contributor to renewable energy generation in Ireland. 30% of Ireland's energy demands were met by wind energy in 2018 with 85% of renewable electricity provided by wind in 2018.
There are over 350 onshore wind farms in operation across Ireland. These wind farms are mainly owned by electricity providers but can also be run by individual companies to help meet their energy demands.
There is 4976 MW of wind energy capacity on the whole island and 3700 MW capacity in the Republic of Ireland. Wind power is Ireland's second largest source of energy after natural gas.
Wind energy experienced a 569% growth between 2005-2017.
There is a desired increase of up to 8.2 GW in capacity under the Climate Action Plan. Our wind energy market has the potential to provide us with a clean source of electricity while also providing thousands of jobs in the construction and maintenance sectors.
Who Operates our Wind Farms?
Energia also owns and operates several wind farms located throughout Ireland.
One offshore wind farm in operation in Ireland off Arklow, Co.Wexford with a 25 MW capacity.
Higher construction costs and infrastructure costs than onshore wind power.
Capable of harnessing more energy due to increased wind at sea.
Desired increase to 3.5 GW capacity under Climate Action Plan.
Ireland's position affords it a unique opportunity to take advantage of offshore wind technology.
Offshore Wind Farms
Recycling Wind Turbines
Wind power is expanding rapidly worldwide. As more and more wind turbines are installed across the globe it is inevitable that we must deal with decommissioned wind turbines in the near future.
These must be processed in a sustainable way, to ensure that the entire life cycle of wind power is green and environmentally beneficial over fossil fuels.
Wind turbine recycling is not as relevant to the average Irish citizen as personal wind turbines are not overly popular. It is still important however to understand what happens to our renewable energy systems at the end of their life.
12,000 of the EU's 130,000 wind turbines are set to be decommissioned over the next five years.
Wind turbine towers, generators, gearboxes and foundations can be easily recycled.
The issue lies with the wind turbine blades which are made from composite materials such as glass fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP), commonly known as fiberglass. These materials are not as easily recycled as the other components of a wind turbine. The composite materials are currently separated to be used as fuel and as cement ingredients.
The separation is mainly done through cement co-processing but many are keen to discover more sustainable recycling techniques.
New innovative uses for this recycled material will be required if wind power is to be a truly green source of energy.