Irish transmission system operator – Eirgrid has announced that it is looking into possible solutions to allow offshore wind energy projects to connect to the electricity grid. Wind energy projects off the coast of Ireland are currently stalled because of a lack of grid infrastructure. One solution mooted is a north to south cable running under the sea bed.
Ireland has set itself a tough target of 40% of electricity generation from renewable energy by 2020. EirGrid’s Grid 25 document, published last year provides a detailed strategy for developing the grid to facilitate the 40% target. Eirgrid says it is “currently on target to meet the challenging 40% target for 2020”
“During 2008, the level of 1,000 MW of wind energy was exceeded and this will increase significantly under the current connection processes.”
Despite the positive noises – 3000 megawatts (MW) of consented and proposed offshore wind energy projects cannot be built because there are no power lines with capacity to accommodate the green electricity. Over 1600 MW of projects already have consent including Fred Olsen/ Treasury Holdings 1100 MW Colding wind farm and Airtricity’s 520 MW east coast Arklow project. The projects are also relying on a government introduced ‘feed in tariff’ which guarantees a fixed price for the electricity to make offshore wind energy attractive to investors.
The domestic grid infrastructure required for Irish offshore wind energy projects is being progressed separately from the new strategic grid cable linking Ireland with Wales and the rest of the UK. The east – west, Ireland- Wales cable is reportedly also struggling with Norwegian offshore company Imera unable to source finance for the project. In April, Imera parent company – Oceanteam announced it was abandoning all project work in the offshore renewables industry after write-downs on offshore wind energy projects including Rhyl Flats, Gunfleet Sands and Alpha Ventus.