Where does Ireland currently get its fuel for electricity production?

At present, most of Ireland’s energy is derived from burning fossil fuels, either directly in the home or indirectly in power stations. About 98% of Ireland’s final energy demand is produced by burning coal, oil, peat and natural gas. There is a limited resource of these fossil fuels, and they cannot be replenished once their supplies have been exhausted. They are also subject to price fluctuations. It is the consumption of these non-renewable fuels that leads to the emission of greenhouse gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. The emission of these gases and pollutants is increasing global warming and ultimately causing climate change.

Ireland is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol, which requires reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases by specific amounts over a period from 2008 to 2012 and beyond. The EU Emissions Trading Directive (Directive 2003/87/EC) is being implemented as a pilot project, to help to achieve this target. The National Climate Change Strategy outlines Ireland’s commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 13% above 1990 levels by 2008-2012. A failure to meet this target will result in stiff fines from the EU for a breach of targets.

What is the current state of wind power in Ireland?

The actual level of wind power in Ireland stands at 2232 MW at the end of February
2013 (source: IWEA).Whilst wind farms to date have mainly been developed in the windiest areas of the western seaboard counties (the first commercial wind farm in Ireland was at Ballacorrick, Co. Mayo in 1992), an increasing number of projects are appearing in all regions of Ireland, including an offshore wind farm on the Arklow bank off the coast of Wicklow.

Does the government support wind energy in Ireland?

On 1st May 2006 Minister Dempsey launched a new renewable energy support mechanism known as the Renewable Energy Feed In Tariff (REFIT). This new mechanism is a change from the previous programme in that it is a fixed feed in tariff mechanism rather than competitive tendering. Applicants in REFIT must have planning permission and a grid connection offer for their projects and they will then be able to contract with any licensed electricity supplier up to the notified fixed prices.

In February 2008 Minister Ryan announced the latest change to the REFIT scheme, which will support the development of offshore wind-power projects at a price of €140 per megawatt hour of power produced.

It should be noted that Codling Wind Park will not benefit from the REFIT support
offered in Ireland.

How does a wind turbine produce electricity?

In a coal-fired power station, chemical energy stored in coal is converted first to heat energy by burning and then into kinetic energy (energy of motion) by heating water to produce steam. A high pressure jet of steam is used to turn a turbine (mechanical energy), which is then used to turn a dynamo generator to produce electrical energy. In generating electricity from wind, the chemical and heat energy steps are not needed: the kinetic energy of the wind turns the turbine (or blades), which then turns a generator to produce electricity.

What is a wind turbine made of?

The towers are mostly tubular and made of steel, generally painted light grey. Some towers are made of concrete. The blades are made of glass-fibre reinforced polyester or wood-epoxy. They are light grey because this is the colour which is most inconspicuous under most lighting conditions. The finish is matt, to reduce reflected light.

How fast do the blades turn?

The blades rotate at anything between 15-50 revolutions per minute at constant speed. However, an increasing number of machines operate at variable speed.

How long do wind turbines last?

A wind turbine typically lasts around 20-25 years. During this time, as with a car, some parts may need replacing.

How strong does the wind have to be for turbines to work?

Wind turbines start operating at wind speeds of 3 to 5 metres per second (around 10 miles an hour) and reach maximum power output at around 15 metres/second (around 33 miles per hour). At very high wind speeds, i.e. gale force winds, (25 metres/second, 50+ miles/hour) wind turbines shut down.

What happens when the wind is not blowing?

Through the connection to the Irish national grid, there will not be power outages as when output from wind is low other generator capacity will compensate. Equally, when the wind speed is high, the output from the wind farm will allow other generators’ output to be lower.

Wind turbines have been continuously developed in order to improve reliability. It is now possible to expect that offshore wind turbines will operate for over 90% of the time that they are designed to be operating. Wind turbines need to be turning to generate electricity, and wind turbines require the wind to be blowing for them to turn. Normally there is sufficient wind to turn the turbines, and the turbines will typically generate their maximum output at a wind speed of about 30mph.On average and at a typical offshore location, wind turbines will produce about 40% of the total energy that they could produce compared to if the turbines were operating continuously.

How much of the time do wind turbines produce electricity?

A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs dependent on wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will generate about 40% of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load factor. The load factor of conventional power stations is on average 50%.

How efficient are wind turbines?

The theoretical maximum energy that a wind turbine can extract from the wind impinging upon it is around 60%. However the meaning of efficiency is different with wind energy, where the fuel is free. The primary concern is not the efficiency for its own sake, but to improve productivity in order to bring down the price of wind energy.