Ireland to sign wind energy export deal with UK

The Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte, and his British counterpart, Edward Davey, will today sign a Memorandum of Understanding allowing Ireland to export wind power generated electricity to Britain.

Plans for an €8bn wind energy project that would allow new wind farms in central Ireland to export power to the mainland UK will receive a major boost this afternoon with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two governments.

British Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey and Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte will sign the agreement at a ceremony in Dublin, committing the two countries to work together on assessing the feasibility of the proposals before the agreement of a potential treaty next year.

The move will lead to a full inter-governmental agreement.

The Irish Wind Energy Association has welcomed the news, and described it as a hugely important initial step in delivering an energy trade agreement.

The IWEA says up to 30,000 indigenous jobs could be created countrywide in renewable energy, if the required enablers along with this agreement are put in place.

The precise details of the MOU are yet to be released, but they promise to provide a major boost to a number of developers who have been investigating the potential to export wind energy from Ireland to the UK.

Foremost among them is Element Power, which has been working on plans for its so-called Greenwire project, a 3MW interconnector between Ireland and Wales that would allow power from a fleet of proposed onshore wind farms in mid-Ireland to be transmitted to the UK.

The company maintains that the new wind farms would effectively act as offshore wind farms for the UK, but without the higher costs associated with offshore projects.

“Our argument is that this is a way of delivering offshore wind farm scale with onshore wind farm risks,” Element Power’s chief executive Tim Cowhig told BusinessGreen last year. “We reckon you could realise a saving of £7bn compared to delivering an offshore wind farm of the same size.”

The company also predicts that the link could be completed by 2017, allowing the wind farms to help meet the UK’s renewable energy targets, while also creating jobs and investment in Ireland.

The project was given a further boost late last year when the draft Energy Bill released by the British government confirmed that projects feeding into the UK grid from overseas could potentially take advantage of the clean energy incentives enabled by the bill.

However, the developments are likely to prove controversial and will face opposition from some locals in Ireland concerned about the impact of the new wind turbines on the landscape.

Rabbitte told BBC News that no final decisions had been made on the projects and there would be a period of consultation, but he added that there was “a mutual interest here for both countries” in pursuing the idea.

In related news, German wind farm developer BayWa r.e. renewable energy GmbH acquired the 28MW Stroupster wind farm in Northern Scotland through its subsidiary RENERCO.

The deal, financial details of which were not disclosed, forms part of an agreement between RENERCO and RWE npower renewables, which gives RENERCO the option to purchase 10 UK onshore wind farms being developed by RWE.

The latest deal represents the fourth acquisition under the agreement and gives BayWa a UK wind energy portfolio totalling over 72MW.

The Stroupster wind farm in Caithness will now see 12 wind turbines erected with grid connection expected in late 2014 and commercial operations slated to start in early 2015.