Use of gas-fired power plants shot up by 36% in March, as a drop-off in windy weather led to a 15% decrease in wind energy output, which makes up the bulk of Ireland’s renewable energy supplies.
Meanwhile, Ireland’s first large-scale solar farm was connected to the national grid this week, “the first of many solar projects expected to energise this year,” according to Environment Minister Eamon Ryan.
Gas Networks Ireland reported on Friday that March saw gas and wind “change roles” in terms of contribution to Ireland’s electricity supply, as wind energy generation fell from 53% in a gusty February, to 33% in a more settled March.
To compensate, gas-powered electricity generation rose from 28% in February to 41% in March. Coal’s share in electricity generation also rose from 10% to 14% in March.
Wind energy is the main source of renewable electricity generated in Ireland, powering 86% of renewable electricity generated in 2020, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.
However, the SEAI have warned that the “non-synchronous” nature of fluctuating wind supply is a “major challenge” for the stable operation of the grid.
Other forms of renewable energy generation currently have a much smaller contribution to electricity supply, such as solar power, which the SEAI estimates contributes less than 1% of renewable electricity generation – although the sector is “growing rapidly”.
Expansion of Ireland’s renewable energy production into solar took a major leap forward on Friday, as Ireland’s first ground-mounted solar farm was launched and connected to the national grid.
Now connected, Millvale Solar farm in Wicklow will be fully operational by May, and is one of three solar farms developed by renewable energy company Neoen that will be commissioned by the end of this year. When up and running, the farms will produce enough solar energy to power 12,700 homes.
The solar farms were among the winning projects in the first auction of the Irish government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS 1) in 2020.
Mr Ryan said the connection of Millvale to the national grid was a “momentous occasion” for the Irish electricity system.
“This is the first of many solar projects expected to energise under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) this year and an important starting point on our journey under the Climate Action Plan of reaching up to 2.5GW of solar on the electricity system by 2030,” he said.
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