Jonathan Swift wrote “that whoever could make two ears of corn or two blades of grass to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to this country, than the whole race of politicians put together”.
There are three major wealth creators in society: the makers, the miners and the farmers. And of these, only the farmers in Ireland have managed to create a fully integrated, functioning indigenous food industry that is on a world scale. Our mining and manufacturing have lacked its critical mass. Our mining has made progress in recent decades but the deposits mined have been limited. Manufacturing has been largely underpinned by foreign direct investment and, with a few notable exceptions, indigenous manufacturing has never scaled to an international level.
What confounds me is that it has taken so long for our Government and policy-makers to understand the great opportunity this island has to harvest the energy that flows across our island in abundant quantities and to export it to an energy-dependant Europe. Despite having the best wind resources in Europe, despite having four semi-state companies operating in the energy sector, despite a plethora of development agencies (some of which are best in class for inward investment), we have failed to take this indigenous resource and make it our own.
In particular, we have trailed behind Denmark and Germany who have shown what can be done when people with foresight and insight take a leadership position, and drive an industry with conviction and passion.
Ireland’s resource in onshore, near-shore and offshore wind energy realisable in the coming decades has been calculated at 1,990GW. This is enormous when compared with the 5- to 7GW of renewable power requirement for Ireland’s domestic use and extraordinary in international terms. For example, the total US and Europe electricity generation capacity in 2010 was 1,971GW.
The challenge for Ireland is to capture this capacity and export it to a Europe that will struggle to meet its future self-sufficiency and energy security targets.
Bringing Irish wind to neighbouring markets is now both relevant and timely for the following reasons:
* Wind turbines in Ireland produce more energy than on similar sites in most other countries.