Northern Ireland sets wind energy target for 2020

Northern Ireland energy minister, and stand-in first minister, Arlene Foster is consulting on the SEA and a draft Strategic Action Plan for meeting 600 MW of offshore wind as well as a 300 MW target for tidal energy.

The targets will help Northern Ireland meet its ambitious 2020 aim of 40% of electricity from renewables. Meantime, its interim 2012 target of 12% is likely to be met mostly by onshore wind.

Today renewables supply 8.5% of all Northern Ireland’s electricity. Northern Ireland’s renewable electricity consumption, particularly from wind, has grown by 60% since 2005.

The Energy Minister, Arlene Foster, was speaking at the Irish Wind Energy Association’s (IWEA) Conference in Belfast. There, the Minister stressed that renewable energy development continues to be at the forefront of her agenda and outlined the progress to date in Northern Ireland, to increase the levels of electricity generated from renewable energy sources.

Minister Arlene Foster said: With 99% dependence on imports to meet our energy needs, renewable energy is an imperative for Northern Ireland, to enhance security of supply, help protect against the price volatility of imported fossil fuels and to meet EU targets.

The good news is that Northern Ireland has some enviable natural resources, in particular wind energy, and it is encouraging that we now have 19 wind farms across Northern Ireland.

As a result of this development, around 6% of the electricity consumption is from renewable sources, a growth of some 60% over the past three years.

While wind `pwer will remain the prime renewable source of electricity generation for the foreseeable future here, proposed targets for 2020 in the new European Commission (EC) Renewables Directive set out an imperative to maximise and develop all renewable technologies.

The Minister said: “The important change being introduced in this EC Directive is that the targets relate not just to electricity but to our total energy mix – including heat and transport fuels. The new directive will therefore be a key driver for increasing levels of renewables, such as bioenergy and offshore energy, here in Northern Ireland.”

With the theme of the conference being ‘Actions for Economic Prosperity in a New Energy Era’ the Minister went on to highlight the challenges and opportunities for the renewable energy sector, and emphasised the spin-off commercial opportunities the renewable sector can bring to local industry."

Arlene Foster said: “With the implementation of the new Renewables Directive, and the challenging targets being set by it, we are certainly entering a New Energy Era – an era that will bring as many challenges as it does opportunities."

“The speed at which wind farms are being developed presents potential commercial opportunities for local engineering companies. We have seen some evidence of this to date in the work that Harland & Wolff has been doing for offshore wind farm developments in Great Britain and for the Marine Current Turbine project at Strangford Lough."

“We, in government, have a responsibility for policy in the renewable energy sector and for implementing the EC Directive. We also need industry to take advantage of the opportunities available and address the challenges so together we can help provide for a more sustainable Northern Ireland in this New Energy Era.”

Northern Ireland currently produces around 6% of its electricity from indigenous renewable energy sources. Its renewables target is that, by 2012, 12% of electricity consumption will come from such sources. Renewables generation in Northern Ireland is primarily from onshore wind: there are currently 19 wind farms across Northern Ireland with total capacity of just under 240 MW.

With members in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) is the national association for the wind industry in Ireland. IWEA comprises two separate entities, the Irish Wind Energy Association, which is committed to the promotion and education of wind energy issues, and IWEA, which is the legal entity charged with conference organisation, lobbying and policy development.

IWEA is committed to promoting the use of wind energy in Ireland and beyond as an economically viable and environmentally sound alternative to thermal or nuclear generation.

The Association’s primary purpose is to promote the use of wind power in Ireland. It acts as a central point for information for its membership researches and finds solutions to current issues. Further information can be obtained from the IWEA website 

Wolf Bog wind farm is located near Tildarg, Doagh, Co. Antrim. It received planning approval in September 2005 and was commissioned in late 2007. The site comprises five large ‘Vestas’ V80 wind turbines each with a rotor diameter of 80 metres and a tower height of 60 metres.

The height to blade tip is 100 metres. Each turbine has a rating of 2MW, giving a maximum rating of 10 MW. Wolf Bog wind farm is effectively an extension to Elliott’s Hill wind farm. Constructed in 1995, Elliott’s Hill comprises ten 500KW ‘Vestas’ V39 wind turbines.

Each turbine has a rotor diameter of 39 metres while the total height to blade tip is 58.5 metres. A proposal for a further four wind turbines at the nearby Drumadarragh Hill is currently being assessed by Planning Service.

Planning approvals for wind farms totalling approximately 300 wind turbines, exceed the current DETI target of 12% of energy consumption from renewable sources by 2012.

There is a further 53 wind farms planning applications in the system that propose an additional 421 wind turbines. If approved, together with existing permissions, the SDS 2025 renewable energy target would be exceeded by wind energy alone.