Creating a wind-turbine manufacturing hub in the midlands

30 Apr 2013

Eddie O'Connor, founder and chief executive, Mainstream Renewable Power

Renewable energy entrepreneur Eddie O’Connor, founder and CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power, talks about the scope to create a supply chain manufacturing hub for the wind-energy sector in the midlands region of Ireland to spawn new jobs.

Today, companies in the wind-energy sector converged in Tullamore, Co Offaly, for a conference to share ideas about the scope to set up manufacturing bases in the midlands in order to supply components for wind farms and create jobs in the process.

Mainstream is developing the ‘Energy Bridge’ project that aims to export 5,000MW of wind power from Ireland to the UK, starting from 2017.

O’Connor today said Mainstream Renewable Power invited companies that it has relationships with to come to the Tullamore event.

“We wanted to explain what is possible if we in Ireland get our act together and start exporting green power to the UK,” said O’Connor. “There will be lots of jobs and these companies are here to demonstrate how these jobs will get created.”

Representatives from 30 global wind-turbine companies and manufacturers of transmission technologies, such as Siemens, ABB, General Electric, Alstom, LM Wind Power, XEMC Darwind and Goldwind exhibited at today’s event.

The goal, according to O’Connor, is to set up a supply chain in the midlands. He said that Offaly County Council has already designated an area where it would like such manufacturing companies to locate their bases.

“We are going to see a replacement for the jobs that are going to be lost in Bord na Móna by 2020. We can see that coming from wind energy in the middle of Ireland,” he explained.

O’Connor said the Energy Bridge project will require turbine components, transformers, converters, cables and road infrastructure that will cost in the region of €7bn. The ideal scenario would be to attract manufacturers to set up plants in the midlands so that this equipment doesn’t need to be imported, he said.

“On top of that there is going to be another €6bn in terms of the cost of building the grid to the UK,” said O’Connor.

Energy Bridge

The Energy Bridge project is proposing to capture wind power generated onshore and offshore in Ireland, transport it under the Irish Sea and connect it to the UK via a grid connection.

“I am very confident that not only will we be able to afford and build the turbines in the midlands, but we will be able to ship the wind power across dedicated cables going into the UK,” explained O’Connor.

As for where Energy Bridge is at right now, he said that landowners are being signed up, enough to supply 1,500MW of wind power.

“We have got the grid booked in the UK. We are interacting with the government over there and in Ireland to make sure the inter-governmental agreement gets signed. We have opened up negotiations with the supply chain for the cables because there can be a very long lead time for the supply of cables,” added O’Connor.

In total, he said that 1,700 wind turbines will need to be built in order to generate the 5,000MW of wind energy for the Energy Bridge project.

As for Mainstream, O’Connor said that the company is aiming to build at least 660 wind turbines in the midlands region as part of that 1,700 turbine figure.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic