The Potential of Renewable Energy is Mindblowing!

With some of the best Natural resources in the world, namely Wind, wave, Tidal, Hydro and Biomass, we can reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuels. We now import approx. €6,000,000,000 (Six Billion Euro) in various fuels every year. This money is leaving this country, yet by switching over more and more to renewables we can save vast amounts on our balance of payments and create jobs in Ireland.
This is an excerpt from my recent motion in the Senead.

Cathoirleach, Minister and members of Seanad Eireann as this
is a very long motion I hope that you will bear with me.
I will address some of the elements of it while my colleague
Senator Cait Keane will address other parts of it..
The population of the counties that stretch along the Western
seaboard and the Shannon Eastuary from Donegal to Cork
is 1,610,525 people covering an area of 38,450 Square
Kilometres which is over 50% of the country. So we have a big
area but not enough people. Why?

For decades Emigration was a fact of life for young people in
these nine counties until the Celtic tiger arrived. Well that beast
was last seen heading for Dublin and a flight to Australia.
We are loosing our people because there are not enough jobs
for them here. We are caught in a downward spiral of Financial
and Media driven doom and depression.

So what has this to do with the motion before you. Well the
answer is Everything. JOBS JOBS JOBS

We have the potential in that part of the country to reverse the
scourage of emigration and bring back the brightest people that
this country has ever produced. To live, work, pay taxes and
build up this country.

How? Renewable Energy.

With some of the best Natural resources in the world, namely
Wind, wave, Tidal, Hydro and Biomass, we can reduce our
dependence on imported fossil fuels. We now import approx
€6,000,000,000 (Six Billion Euro) in various fuels every year.
This money is leaving this country, yet by switching over more
and more to renewables we can save vast amounts on our
balance of payments and create jobs in Ireland.

We cannot afford be held to ransom by political events outside
of Ireland. The upheaval in the middle-east and north Africa
as a result of the Arab spring has resulted in higher prices
for imported oil & Gas. This is having a major affect on our
competitiveness as a country.

Industry is being hit with increased costs be it electricity prices,
transport costs or raw materials that are oil based. Domestic
consumers are also feeling this when they look at their
electricity, heating, petrol or diesel bills.
The share of electricity consumption from renewable energy
has jumped between the years 2000 and 2010 from 5.5% to
14.8%. This is above EU target of 13.2% for 2010 as per the
Renewable Energy Source Directive (RES).

So how are we achieving this?
Ireland has some of the best wind resources in Europe. The
wind that blows onshore from the Atlantic is the source of this

As at the end of 2011 we have some 1,500Mw of connected
wind farm energy yet we expect to install a further 5,000Mw of
wind capacity by 2020. As you can see we have a hell of a lot
to do over the next 8 years.

In its 2011 -2050 Wind Energy Road Map report SEAI
estimates that “we have the potential to create 20,000
jobs in the installation operation and maintainance
of onshore and off shore wind farms in Ireland by 2040”
Furthermore it finds that “The potential economic value
of electricity generated from wind could reach €15
Billion by 2050” in addition to this we could have between
11Gw (Giggawatts) and 16 Giggawatts from onshore wind
farms and up to 30Gw from Offshore wind by 2050.

These figures are huge and emphasize the massive potential
that is out there and the amount of wind farms that need to
come on line. The European Wind Energy Association says
that for every Mw (Megga Watt) 15.1 jobs are created in the
EU. 154,000 were employed in the wind energy sector in 2007
this is forecasted to rise to 325,000 by 2020.

As Ireland sits on the edge of the Atlantic Tidal & Wave energy
renewables need to be harnessed. In SEAI’s “Ocean Energy
Roadmap 2010 -2050” it sees up to 29Gw of Ocean energy
capacity can be installed without significant environmental
impact and up to 70,000 jobs with up to €12 Billon in cumulative
economic benefit by 2030 and €120 Billion by 2050.

All of this will put huge strains on the National grid and thus
Eirgrid is in the process of upgrading and strenghting the grid
with it Grid 25 programme. This involves the investment of up
to €4 Billion.

Minister we must ensure that this programme is rolled out fast.
As we are in a downturn in our economic cycle this is the time
that projects should be fast tracked as construction costs have
fallen. Also our demands from industry for energy are lower
at the moment. This has to be viewed as an opportunity. The
seeds of recovery planted today will bear fruit in the very near

I have spoken here before on the grid and the issues regarding
the Gate 3 process I will repeat that we should be looking at a
new Gate 4 process that will be directed at the export of excess
energy to the UK & Europe. As part of the programme for Government
we stated “We will ensure that future wind farms are built in locations
where wind regime is best and that they are built in large numbers
or in clusters to reduce the cost of connection to the grid under
new plan led Gate 4 process as opposed to the existing developer led
system” . If we implement this process we can let Eirgrid
target those projects that have the necessary permissions and
finance in place to proceed much quicker.

There is no point in running a new line 50 to 80 miles to
connect to a tiny wind farm just because the gate 3 process
allows for it, when you could have many projects far closer to
the existing grid connected in shorter time, that are ready to
proceed now but have been told that it could be up to 10 years
before they get a connection. There is a case in that situation
for Government to look at the construction of privately owned
grids serving specific customers or locations. There is nothing
like a bit of competition to get people focused and creative.

The East / West connector will be a huge boost to our ability
to export energy. When it goes live this 500Mw connector
will enable trade from the Single Electricity Market (SEM)
on the island of Ireland to the British Electricity Trading and
Transmission Arrangements Market in Great Britain (BETTA).
I believe that cost benefit analysis studies should be carried
out by Eirgrid into the viability of connecting with France.
Both Britain & France have ageing Nuclear power generating

Britain has said that it is willing to invest up to £5 Billion
Pounds to ensure that it’s energy requirements are achieved.
I believe that the British – Irish Council is the forum to ensure
that Ireland benefits from this.

The French Court of Audit stated in a report covered in
Yesterdays New York Post that 22 of France’s Nuclear stations
will reach their expected 40 year life span by 2022. They will
either have to extend the life span of them or else sharply
increase investment in electricity production. This would be
the equivalent of building the equivalent of 11 next generation
Nuclear Power Plants. The French have already spent €188
Billion Euro on their existing plants.

Meanwhile Germany has said all of its Nuclear power plants
will be shut by 2022. It would be far cheaper for these countries
to import electrons from locations such as Ireland.
Cathoirleach If we can open up further interconnectors vast
markets for clean carbon free energy are there for the taking. If
we do not, well then some other country will fill those needs.

We could also use these new interconnector projects to lay
high speed fibre optic cables to enable fast data transfer
between North America, Ireland and Europe.
Pumped Hydro is another feature of the renewable mix that
we should be looking at. Presently we have Turlough Hill
pumped hydro facility in county Wicklow which can store about
1.5Gigga Watt hour of energy. Eirgrid should look further at
this in locations that have been identified by such groups as
the “Spirit of Ireland Group” and by others. There are other
potential add on benefits of such facilities. Electric Mountain in
Snodownia in Wales which attracts over 300,000 paying visitors
per year is such an example. We have locations up and down
the country that may be suitable for this, such as Corrie lakes
formed during the last Ice age in areas such as Kerry, Donegal,

Cathaoirleach Local authorities can identify where such
renewable projects could be feasible and county development
plans are now taking a proactive approach in setting targets for
renewable projects.

Professor J Owen Chief Executive of the Sustainable Energy Authority
of Ireland in the foreword to “Energy in Ireland 1990 – 2010” report
published in December 2011 says “ A particular encouraging
involvement of local decision makers and opinion formers
in supporting the drive towards sustainable energy.

The recent production of renewable energy strategies
in counties Mayo and Clare is a clear example of this.
Both counties highlight the positive benefits associated
with the exploitation of natural renewable resources in a
sustainable manner, while critically identifying areas in
their counties where such development would be seen in a
more positive light.”

Data storage is another add on to the mix of renewable energy
projects. Many of the major internet search internet companies
like Google, Adobe and social media companies such as
Facebook are looking for locations to store vast amounts of
data. They use huge amounts of energy keeping their servers
from over heating. It doesn’t matter where they are situated if
the climatic conditions are cool then they will use less energy.
Ireland offers such locations.

With high speed fibre links such as the The North – South
Kelvin Direct International Connectivity project which
was completed in late 2010, direct international connectivity
between the North West and Border regions with North
America and Britain can now be provided.

Further links will now be achieved through the East / West
interconnector 7,000 Giga Bytes fibre optic link to Britain.
With these strategic pieces of infrastructure we can tap into this
Data storage market. Google has spent €200 Million Euro on
such a facility in Finland to serve the Nordic market. This was
a former paper mill which closed in Jan 2008 has been given a
new lease of life following a refit by the company after it bought
it in 2009. The facility will be serviced by a 12 Mw wind farm

If we could tap into the next
America to Europe which will be laid off the south coast. We
could open up the counties of Kerry, Cork and Waterford to this

market. Big International companies want to be associated with
clean energy and clean technology.

Large industrial bases such as Shannon Free Zone have the
potential to brand themselves as Carbon Free Zones. Situated
between the airport and the town with a population in excess
of 10,000. We could copy the Swedish model of building
Combined heat and Power plants which would use carbon
reducing Biomass fuel sources such as locally grown willow,
miscantus, and pine wood pulp which would support farmers
and forestry growers along the western seaboard and the

The power generated could be used to power the industrial
estate. The heat generated could be used to heat the town by
piping the hot water to the houses in the town thus creating one
giant central heating system. This would offset the importation
of fossil fuels to produce electricity and oil to heat our houses.
A knock on effect of job creation would also result in our ability
to attract companies to these locations.

These projects could be rolled out all over the country where
there are population centres and industry in close proximity. If
the minister so wishes I will forward him a briefing on this issue.
But for these projects to locate here we need to look at how we
allocate the refit tarriff to such producers.

Finally Cathoirleach we need to look at why it takes so long in
this country for large projects to get off the ground. We need
to look at the criteria used in how objections to large scale
projects in this country are lodged. It is the citizens right to
object but there have been situations where renewable projects
have been objected to by individuals and entities that do not
live in close proximity to the proposed project but dozens
of miles away. And there have been cases where the same
individual objectors pop up. Local government, SEAI, EPA,
Your department and Minister Hogans department need to look
at this and at the same time look to protect the environment.

Remember We can create those jobs jobs here with a little bit
of planning and a lot of common sense.

Thank you.

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Tony Mulcahy

Tony Mulcahy

About This Blog

The reason I put this Blog up was to gather the views of as many of the people of Clare as possible.

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