THERE’S no need to worry that the transition to wind energy is happening too slowly in west Clare, according to Minister Eamon Ryan.
The Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications was at Moneypoint to officially open its new €50 million synchronous compensator, which will enable higher volumes of renewables on the system, and provide greater grid stability.
The Moneypoint synchronous compensator is one of the largest in the world, and he said it is at the forefront of a huge shift in how energy is produced.
“This is historic and it’s in line with that Ardnacrusha tradition,” said Minister Ryan.
“Then they built the leading example of hydro in the world and this is at the forefront of a new green revolution in energy.
“When you have a lot of renewables on the system, a lot of wind, this supports it to make sure the system stays stable. This is the biggest one of these in the world, it’s the leading example.
“There will be people around the world who will say ‘look what Ireland’s doing, they’ve got this really advanced system to stabilise their grid’. That mightn’t grab the headlines but in the energy world this is big and it’s very important. I’m really glad it’s in Clare, I’m really glad it’s in Moneypoint.”
He said that companies are going to be investing in Irish offshore wind energy very soon.
“We’re going into the first auction for offshore wind before Christmas. That’s a key milestone, it starts to get very real, people put real money behind projects. That first phase is mainly on the east coast, but there’s one project on the west coast.
“After that, next year, we’ll start switching to looking at southern and western waters. To make it happen by the end of this decade we have to make the right decisions now.
“Government is commited to developing offshore wind, to doing it at scale, and to using the power when it comes ashore in a way that helps our industry.
“This is going to bring industry west, it’s going to bring jobs west and in our current system, we’re relying on what Mr Putin says and does, and that doesn’t work. This is where we rely on our own power and it will work. We’re going at it full speed.”
There was actually more coal burned at Moneypoint in the first eight months of this year than in the first eight months of 2021, but he said there were short term problems which led to that, and things are going in the right direction.
“That was happening because two of our main gas fired power plants were out of commission, they had technical problems.
“We have a very tight situation in power generation. That’ll be resolved, I was in Tarbert earlier on and that’ll be one of the locations, Shannonbridge being the other, where we’re putting in emergency gas fired back-up generation, that will also help support the system.
“We have had particular circumstances in the last year, because of other gas plants being out of action and because of the tight gap between supply and demand, but what has also happened in the last year is that we also built 700MWs of solar and wind power.
“What’s happening with the likes of this project is very real. Even look at October, now it was a very windy month, but day in day out we were running some of the highest levels of wind on any system.”
There was disappointment in November 2021 when Equinor pulled out of a €2 billion offhshore wind energy project at Moneypoint, but Mr Ryan said that was just a setback, and the project is still going to happen.
“A good number of developers have come to ESB and are really serious about replacing Equinor. ESB are going through a process of reviewing those to pick what they think is the best partner.”
“That was unfortunate but it wasn’t in any way a sign that we weren’t going to proceed with this. Equinor have to make their decisions, they’ve a whole range of different locations where they might want to advance.
“But ESB, from talking to them last night, are full steam ahead with this. They have some really good partners looking to join them in that, they’ll select the best partner in the very near future.”
There are very good reasons for companies in the sector to get involved in such projects, he said.
“It’s not rocket science, we have some of the best wind resources in the world. We also have a good expertise in it. We know how to develop wind power, you need to do it sensitively, you have to get the environmental planning right, but there’s a huge interest in what we’re doing because the wind is here, this is one of the windiest places on the planet and that’s what we have to tap into.”
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.