Bord na Mona 1GW Irish wind plan

Bord na Mona, a semi-state Irish energy company, has unveiled plans to develop an initial 1GW of onshore wind capacity in Ireland’s East Midlands for export, and intends to lodge a planning application by 2015.

The “Clean Energy Hub” scheme, much of which would be on line by 2020, would be largely dependent on demand for renewable electricity from the UK should it be unable to meet its own targets domestically.

While the scheme may bump up against similar development plans being progressed by Mainstream Renewable Power and Element Power, it does not appear that Bord na Mona has any intention of building its own subsea power lines, as the other two developers do.

Rather, Bord na Mona would build a series of wind farms which “could then be connected to cables developed to carry renewable power to the UK and European markets”, the company says.

One option for Bond na Mona would be to team up with a more experienced wind developer like Mainstream, although no such suggestion has been made by either player.

Bord na Mona is responsible in Ireland for harvesting peat for energy, which still accounts for 5% or so of the country’s primary energy consumption, making it an outlier among Western nations.

Bord na Mona owns 80,000 hectares of peatland across the Republic of Ireland – or 7% of the country’s total – but much of it will reach the end of its productive life by the end of the decade.

An internal study has concluded that those peatlands – whose population is scarce – “could play a central role in the development of a compact and efficient renewable-energy export project”.

Ireland’s Midlands have relatively mild wind conditions, but new turbines brought to market in recent years have made the development of wind farms there economically feasible.

Bord na Mona envisages an initial 1GW of development, but says that figure could double in future if it expands the Clean Energy Hub westward into other peatlands it owns.

Speaking earlier this year to Recharge, Irish energy minister Pat Rabbitte hinted that such a project could be on the cards for Bord na Mona, noting that the company was “running out of mission because peat is a finite resource”.

Rabbitte, who is working to hammer out a legal framework supporting the exportation of wind energy from Ireland to the UK,  has strongly backed the development of wind farms in peatlands, rather than more populated regions.

One sector that will be discomfited by the snowballing plans for such export plans is the UK offshore wind sector, the economic case for which may be undermined by a large-scale push for cheaper onshore farms in Ireland.