Global renewable energy developer Element Power has announced that National Grid UK, the operator of the UK electricity network, has today confirmed its Irish operation has been awarded a ‘firm’ grid connection of 3,000 megawatts. Element Power said the grid offer means it will be able to progress its Greenwire wind farm projects in Ireland, resulting in the creation of around 10,000 development and construction jobs and up to 3,000 long-term jobs down the line.
According to Element Power, the offer from National Grid UK is the first such UK connection offered to an Irish renewable energy exporter.
It said that the connection offer will mean that it will be able to progress its Greenwire plans – a series of connected projects exporting wind power generated in the Midlands of Ireland to the UK via two independent subsea cables.
The company said that ‘firm’ connection means that the UK power market can take the output at all times, enabling €1.2bn worth of energy exports annually from the Irish economy.
Greenwire will involve a total spend of €8bn during the construction phase. A significant proportion of this figure will be spent in developing wind energy infrastructure in Ireland, said Element Power.
On the clean-tech jobs front, the company said the project will spell the creation of an estimated 10,000 development and construction jobs and up to 3,000 long-term jobs. It added that a legacy interconnector between the two countries would also provide an "enduring" benefit.
As well as this Element Power is hoping that Greenwire will deliver "considerable" direct benefits to the Midlands region as well as the national economy.
Apparently rental payments to local landowners combined with annual rates to the local authorities across the Midlands will amount to €50m each year.
Element Power’s Irish operation in Cork is headed up by Tim Cowhig and a team of wind developers, who were previously with SWS Energy.
The wider Northern European operation is led by Mike O’Neill, previously of RES Group.
The company is backed by Hudson Clean Energy Partners, a global private equity firm with over US$1bn in funding capital dedicated to investing in clean energy.
Pictured at the signing of contracts offering the grid connection to Element Power in Ireland on 16 July were, from left: Tim Cowhig, CEO, Element Power Ireland; Julian Leslie, head of Electricity Customer Services at National Grid UK Transmission; and Mike O’Neill, president and COO, Element Power Group
Last month Irish Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte, TD, and UK Energy Minister Charles Hendry agreed a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) on renewable energy trading between the two countries. Rabbitte recently said that this MoU would be in place by the end of the year.
As a result of declining North Sea gas reserves as well as ageing coal and nuclear power stations, the UK is making moves to ensure its long-term energy security.
Element Power believes that its Greenwire could save UK consumers nearly €9bn over the project’s lifetime compared to sourcing the same supply from sea-based offshore energy.
The UK said it needs 30,000 megawatts of new wind generation to meet its target of 15pc of all energy coming from renewable sources by 2020. It is currently consulting on trading renewables with neighbouring countries.
Julien Leslie of the National Grid UK Transmission commented spoke about the grid connection agreement today.
"This agreement will break new ground by connecting wind generation in Ireland directly to the UK transmission system. We are looking forward to working together with Element Power as we move forward with this unique piece of infrastructure," he said.
Element Power indicated today that the planning application for the Greenwire project will be made in consultation with local authorities and communities in the Midlands.
The company is currently in consultation with An Bord Pleanála as it plans to make an application under the terms of the Strategic Infrastructural Development Act 2006.