IKEA Ireland invests in new Irish wind farm in Co Leitrim

13 Aug 2013

(From left) David Gascon, head of electricity, Vayu; Eddie O'Connor, CEO, Mainstream Renewable Power; and Joanna Yarrow, head of Sustainability IKEA Ireland and UK

Furniture giant IKEA is to pump money into the purchase of a new Irish wind farm that is being developed by the Irish wind and solar pioneer Mainstream Renewable Power. The new wind farm will be based in Carrickeeny in north-west Leitrim and is set to go live in 2014. Some of the electricity generated via the wind turbines will be used to power IKEA’s Dublin and Belfast stores, as part of the group’s global clean-tech drive.

According to IKEA, it will be investing in the purchase of the new wind farm from Mainstream Renewable Power, which is being led by Irishman Eddie O’Connor, the Airtricity pioneer.

When he sold Airtricity in 2008, O’Connor decided to tackle the global solar-energy and wind-energy space. Mainstream now has its clean-tech fingers dipped in solar and wind projects ranging from Ireland to Scotland, Chile and North America.

Opting to pursue a sustainability portfolio

IKEA believes it will be one of the first corporate businesses in Ireland to operate a wind farm in this way.

Mainstream has already started building the wind farm in Leitrim. The Irish-headquartered clean-tech company will operate the plant for its 20-year lifecycle.

The wind farm site could be operational in 2014, will have a capacity of 7.65 megawatts, and will host four turbines. 

Mainstream says the wind farm will have the scope to produce 25GWh annually – that would translate to generating the equivalent electricity for around 5,500 houses a year. 

Power purchase agreement (PPA)

The IKEA group will sell electricity generated by the wind farm to Irish energy supply company Vayu, who will supply electricity to the retailer’s Dublin and Belfast stores under a 15-year contract. 

Vayu was recently deemed to be the only energy supply company to supply 100pc renewable energy to its electricity customers on the island of Ireland in a Commission for Energy Regulation report on fuel-mix and CO2 emissions.

Wind energy is a key part of IKEA’s global sustainability strategy to produce as much renewable energy as it consumes by 2020. 

The Swedish furniture giant has set aside €1.5bn for investments in renewable energy up to 2015. 

It appears that this latest Irish acquisition will increase the total number of wind turbines that the IKEA Group has committed to own and operate to 137. 

The other wind farms are located in the UK, Germany, France, Poland, Denmark and Sweden. 

Passing on the eco benefits to the consumer?

Joanna Yarrow, head of Sustainability, IKEA Ireland and UK, said yesterday that IKEA’s investments in renewable energy not only help to reduce CO2 emissions from the company’s all-island operations in Ireland, but also help to control its electricity costs so IKEA can pass any benefits on to customers by continuing to offer home furnishings at low prices.

“Companies, individuals or governments – we all have responsibility to address the resource dilemma and commit to a more sustainable future. Producing our own, affordable, renewable electricity gets us one step closer to becoming completely energy independent by 2020, while ensuring our commercial success,” she said.

20-20-20 – shaping the electricity market in Europe

David Gascon, head of electricity at Vayu, also said IKEA’s decision to invest directly in renewable energy is a first of its kind in Ireland.

He said the move has the potential to shape the energy market here in Ireland a very “positive” way.

“With our flexible approach to green energy generation, we believe our power purchase agreement [PPA] with IKEA will act as a model for similar scale companies seeking sustainable solutions for managing their power requirements.

He said his type of industry-collaboration model could be the future for electricity production in Ireland and help the Government reach its target of 40pc generation of electricity from renewables by 2020.

Inter-governmental agreement between Ireland and UK, wind-energy trading and Ireland as a clean-tech model

In relation to O’Connor, he was one of the main speakers at Siliconrepublic.com’s Green Growth Forum, which was held in Dublin, Ireland, in February.

At the time, O’Connor spoke about Ireland’s potential to become an exemplar for clean tech globally. He was speaking a day after Ireland and the UK governments signed a memorandum of understanding to pave the way for wind-energy trading between the two jurisdictions – especially for Ireland to help the UK meet security of energy supply and to create an energy bridge between ireland and UK.

Check out this video glimpse of O’Connor’s speech in February in which he also detailed what possible impact this innovation area could have for Ireland in terms of job creation and pursuing a wind-tech manufacturing hub in the midlands.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic