Midlands wind energy platform could lead to €1bn spend and 6,000 new jobs

8 Mar 2013

Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, TD

Harnessing the Irish midlands’ potential for exportable wind energy to the UK could see civil engineering and construction investments of €1bn lead to between 3,000 and 6,000 jobs over two to three years, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte, TD, said today.

Addressing a clean energy conference in Tullamore, Co Offaly, today, Rabbitte said the UK-Ireland memorandum of understanding that will see Irish wind energy power homes across the UK has triggered detailed analysis of how Irish renewable energy resources, onshore and offshore, could be developed for the mutual benefit of both countries.

He said an agreed programme of work is under way so as to prepare for the Inter-Governmental Agreement, including regulatory issues, grid issues, complex engineering issues and market issues.

The ambition is to settle on an Inter-Governmental Agreement by early 2014.

Clear economic benefits for Ireland

“For Ireland, there are very clear economic benefits. Significant employment opportunities will arise if we can properly exploit this opportunity. As an example, employment creation arising from a 3GW project in the midlands would be expected to be in the order of 3,000 to 6,000 jobs in the construction phase, with the actual number dependent on the construction schedule to 2020.

“There would be about €1bn of construction cost spending on Irish civil engineering works over two to three years. There would also be additional jobs created in the ongoing maintenance of turbines over a 20-year operating life. Further employment opportunities would arise if turbines or components were manufactured in Ireland,” Rabbitte said.

In recent months, at the Green Growth Forum in Dublin, Mainstream Renewables CEO Eddie O’Connor said such a project has the potential to lead to the industrialisation of Ireland’s midlands and said firms like ABB and Siemens would be interested in manufacturing wind turbine equipment in Ireland rather than shipping it across land and sea.

“When you study what’s happening in Germany and Denmark, approximately eight jobs have been created for every megawatt,” O’Connor said.

Bord na Móna is investing €110m in the Mount Lucas wind farm, which will involve the construction of 28 wind turbines. When it’s up and running, the wind farm will have the capacity to provide electricity for up to 45,000 homes.

Element  Power Ireland is planning to build up to 40 wind farms in the midlands and export all the power generated to the UK, which is facing an energy crisis over the coming years.

Mainstream Renewable Power is planning to deliver 5,000MW of wind energy.

Bord na Móna CEO Gabriel D’Arcy explained the semi-State has been investing in wind power since the 1990s.

“It is exactly this type of large-scale investment in energy production that will see significant and sustainable prosperity created across our nationwide landholding. Ultimately, our plans for a sustainable Bord na Móna Clean Energy Hub will drive jobs and prosperity here by generating power not just for the Irish market but also for the British energy market,” D’Arcy said.

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