How Ireland can make waves for green economy

6 May 2010

Matthew Knight of Siemens believes Ireland’s greatest asset is our coastline.

With 16pc of Europe’s coastline, entire offshore resources could be built out to sea and enough wind and wave energy could be harvested to power cities across the continent.

Norway, the one country in Europe that is riding out the recession quite comfortably because of its natural gas exports, is already on the case. It realises its gas supplies are finite and is planning to replace this by making use of its generous length of coastline to sell wave energy.

Scotland has also spotted the gap in the market – London’s overhead power lines can’t keep up with demand, so the canny Scots are harnessing wave power from the North Sea and are building an interconnect to funnel the energy to London.

Ireland is closer geographically to London than Scotland and is mad to miss out on this opportunity, says Matthew Knight, energy distribution expert at Siemens.

“Ireland has a key part to play. If you look at a map of north-west Europe showing who owns the ocean, Ireland owns at least as much or more than the UK or Norway. Ireland, the UK and Norway have the potential to be the biggest renewable-energy suppliers to the rest of Europe.

“Norway is developing technology for deep-water marine renewable energy because they know gas will one day run out. Wind is an easily exploitable resource here in Ireland even more than around Norway. In Norway, they are looking at floating wind turbines to become Europe’s wind energy provider.

“Ireland needs to get its act together quite quickly to kick-start things if it’s going to maximise the opportunity for jobs.”

Knight says there are currently four projects proposed along the Irish coastline: the Oriel Windfarm and the Dublin Array, which have grid connection offers in place, as well as Codling Bank and Arklow’s wind farms.

“On the Irish side of the sea there are plenty of good ideas, but they are still waiting for grid connections. It is wrong to make them wait in queue for connections behind inland wind farmers.

I think offshore and onshore are two distinct markets. Offshore is the big one. You will never build a 1,000-megawatt farm onshore, but you could definitely build it offshore. You could build these wind farms out to sea, just over the horizon, out of sight and out of mind, generating a large source of energy and a large supply of jobs.”

By John Kennedy

Photo: Matthew Knight, energy distribution expert at Siemens

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years