Irish hopes of striking a ground-breaking deal with the UK that would allow it to export excess wind energy to its larger neighbour will be discussed at a meeting currently scheduled for 20 June.
The two countries’ energy ministers, Charles Hendry and Pat Rabbitte, will explore how they can move beyond a high-level agreement, struck last year, to support the development of offshore wind farms in Irish waters designed to feed into the UK national grid.
In February, the Republic of Ireland’s (RoI) government announced it will not introduce a feed-in tariff for offshore wind, as previously planned. Instead, it will pursue an export-based strategy to drive the development of an offshore sector.
Ireland’s wind energy industry is keen to develop shallow water sites in the Irish Sea and to connect these wind farms to the UK national grid.
With Irish energy demand in decline since the country entered difficult economic times in 2008, the country does not need the electricity that would be generated by a larger fleet of offshore wind turbines, and its network could not cope with such a high wind penetration rates. It also expects to be able to meet its 2020 renewable energy targets primarily via further expansion of onshore wind.
The RoI has just seven 3.6MW turbines installed offshore and connected to the grid, but with shallow water sites on offer, it is little surprise that more than one developer is keen to build for export. Both Mainstream Renewable Power and SSE are thought to be interested in harnessing Ireland’s offshore wind resource.