Tributes pour in for Irish wind energy veteran Eddie O’Connor

8 Jan 2024

Eddie O'Connor. Image: SuperNode

CEO of Bord na Móna for a decade, entrepreneur Eddie O’Connor played an important role in putting Ireland’s renewable energy sector on the global map.

Tributes have been paid to Dr Eddie O’Connor, a veteran of Ireland’s energy sector, who passed away over the weekend.

O’Connor (76) was the founder of renewable technology companies Airtricity, Mainstream Renewable Power and, most recently, SuperNode.

With a background in chemical and industrial engineering, O’Connor held various positions in ESB in the 1970s following the completion of his bachelor’s degree from University College Dublin. He was CEO of Bord na Móna for around a decade.

O’Connor went on to found Airtricity in 1997 which, within a decade, became a leading renewable energy producer across Europe and North America. It was sold to SSE (formerly Scottish and Southern Energy) for nearly €2bn in 2008, when it was renamed SSE Airtricity.

Following the sale, O’Connor, who had a doctorate in business administration, founded Mainstream Renewable Power, a leading global renewable energy company with projects spanning five continents. Norwegian green investment group Aker Horizons acquired a majority stake in the company in 2021.

His most recent project was SuperNode, a start-up founded in 2018 that is designing and manufacturing the future of Ireland’s energy transmission cable systems using novel methods. As part of the deal with Aker to acquire Mainstream, Aker also got a 50pc stake in SuperNode.

‘Business leader with a bold vision’

In July last year, SuperNode which is led by CEO John Fitzgerald invested €40m into research and development of new superconducting cables to boost Ireland’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions, supported by the Government through IDA Ireland.

Ealier this year, SuperNode secured €16m in funding from its shareholders O’Connor and Aker. In April 2023, the start-up struck a major deal with CERN to collaborate on improving its superconducting cable systems to improve energy transmission across long distances.

“Eddie O’Connor was an inspiring business leader with a bold vision and the capacity to get things done, as demonstrated throughout his varied career, making him a prominent and successful renewable energy entrepreneur,” said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.

“His collaborative spirit and strategic foresight were ever present during his leadership of Bord na Móna. His passion for innovation was a real driving force behind his work in setting up Airtricity and as a co-founder of Mainstream Renewables and SuperNode. Above all else, Eddie was a visionary, as evidenced by his efforts in promoting the idea of a European supergrid.”

Wind Energy Ireland also issued a statement following O’Connor’s death, describing him as one of the creators of Ireland’s wind energy industry.

“Eddie O’Connor revolutionised how we produce and use energy in this country. Ireland’s wind energy industry was built on the foundations he and others laid in the 1990s and their vision of a cleaner, more prosperous energy future for all of us,” said Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland.

“Working together to make [a trans-European supergrid] a reality, to achieve energy independence and to build a clean energy future, is the best way to honour a man who gave so much to our industry and to this country.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic