I wish to highlight a major flaw in our Government’s plan to decarbonise by using primarily wind energy.
Electricity comprises approximately 20% of the energy we use. The other 80% is used for transport, heating, industrial purposes and so on.
Even if wind was to achieve the goal of 70% penetration by 2030 this would be 70% of that 20% which is 14% of our overall energy.
Allowing for gas powered back up generation, inefficiency in balancing a very unstable grid and constraining or switching off power when there is too much wind, it is likely that the CO2 savings will be less than 12% and possibly less than 10%.
Because the wind doesn’t always blow, wind turbines produce about 30% of their maximum potential output. Electricity is very difficult to store and to date, no feasible, cost effective, grid-scale storage technology has emerged suitable for Ireland. Consequently, intermittent electricity must always be backed up by conventional generation to provide power on demand. No conventional generation has been closed down because of wind and ESB are proposing to build more gas fired stations.
Is this potential 10% CO2 saving worth the enormous financial cost estimated to be in excess of €16 billion?
The accepted wind industry cost for developing wind farms is approximately €1.5 million per MW. The target to achieve 70% wind penetration on the grid requires 8,000 MW. We currently have 4,000MW. The grid cost to connect this amount of dispersed wind is estimated by Eirgrid to be in excess of €4 billion. Total conservative cost is therefore €16 billion excluding all externalities, interconnection, smart meters and the additional cost of offshore wind etc.
What about the damage we are doing to our pristine and beautiful landscape? The environmental carnage each wind farm causes with new roads, the removal of trees or bogs and thousands of tonnes of concrete poured into the ground? Not to mention the families and communities forced to live in the shadow of noisy turbines. For them and many who care about our landscape, wind gives climate action a bad name.
A proper cost benefit analysis (CBA) and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) were never carried out in advance of this wind plan. It’s time to press the pause button and ask some hard questions about the huge costs of wind and whether a possible 10% CO2 saving justifies the enormous cost – financial, environmental and social.
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