160 wind turbines and 1,750 hectares of solar approved in first State auction

11 Sep 2020

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Around 160 wind turbines and 1,750 hectares of solar panels could be installed across Ireland after Government approval for the first RESS auction.

The Government has said a €1.4bn investment and 1,000 new jobs are incoming following approval for the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) auction. RESS is a competitive, auction-based scheme that invites renewable electricity projects to bid for capacity and receive a guaranteed price for the electricity they generate for up to 16.5 years.

Provisional results for the auction were revealed last month, and now the Government has approved a total of 82 renewable energy projects. This includes approximately 160 new onshore wind turbines and 1,750 hectares of solar panels, with capacities of 479MW and 796MW, respectively.

The Government said that the 82 winning bids have a projected output of 2,237GWh of renewable electricity, equating to a potential saving of 671 kilotons of CO2 per year. This would account for approximately 10pc of the amount required to meet Ireland’s 2030 climate targets.

Five solar energy and two onshore wind community projects were successful in the first auction, referred to as RESS-1. These projects are located across three provinces in counties Kilkenny, Galway, Mayo, Wexford, Clare and Cork. The projects will be owned in the majority by communities and the revenues from their operation will be cycled back into those communities.

Speaking today (11 September), one of the successful RESS-1 bidders, Claremorris and Western District Energy Coop chair, JP Prendergast, said: “We are so proud to be putting a solar farm on to what was once a dumping ground, turning it from a brown site to green.

“We hope in partnering with Mayo County Council and working with community power, can provide a model to other communities for what can be achieved.”

‘A platform for rapid deployment’

The community benefit fund under RESS-1 is expected to deliver €4.5m per year to sustainable community initiatives targeted at those communities living near the RESS-1 projects. Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Eamon Ryan, TD, said he was “delighted” with the approval of the first auction.

“[It] provides us with a platform for rapid deployment of onshore wind and solar projects at scale and at least cost, replacing fossil fuels on our energy grid,” he said.

“The results are very competitive and represent a significant saving on previous support schemes.”

In July, the Government received crucial approval of State aid for the scheme from the European Commission over the next five years. The expectation is that a minimum of four auctions will be held between 2020 and 2025 to help meet the country’s 2030 targets.

Under the Climate Action Plan revealed last year, the aim is to have 70pc of Ireland’s electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic