A further €6 billion will have to be spent on building new wind farms in the Republic between now and 2020 if it is to meet EU green energy targets.
State agency Eirgrid said yesterday the Republic would have to build new wind farms with the capacity to generate about 3,000 megawatts (MW) electricity over the next decade if it was going to meet its target of getting 40 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Industry sources say that on average, development costs for wind power run to €2 million for every MW, implying a total cost of €6 billion for the 3,000MW required by 2020.
However, they pointed out that these costs could fall as turbines become more efficient.
The taxpayer will not be called on to invest this money, as wind farms are largely developed by either private sector operators, or by commercial State companies, all of whom fund these ventures from their own resources.
However, wind farm operators are given a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate as an incentive to develop the facilities in the first place.
This cost is passed on to customers as part of an overall public service charge.
Eirgrid, which operates the national grid, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Change and Energy Security yesterday that the Republic’s wind farms now had a total capacity of over 1,400MW.
Meeting the EU target would require a further 4,600MW, which the agency said would mean adding an extra 300MW a year for the next decade to the electricity system.
Eirgrid recently carried out a study on the feasibility of having such a high proportion of wind-generated power on the system, as no other country had attempted this. The agency’s chief executive, Dermot Byrne, told the committee that unless a number of technical problems were dealt with, it could lead to sudden power cuts.
However, Mr Byrne said that the agency believed it could deal with the technical challenges that high levels of wind-generated power presented and could guarantee security of electricity supplies to customers.
This means that by 2020, at certain periods up to 75 per cent of all electricity being used in the Republic would come from wind power, which Mr Byrne said would be unprecedented.
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