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Hydro Storage Scheme Among Clare's Renewable Energy Plans

11th March 2014
Hydro Storage Scheme Among Clare's Renewable Energy Plans

#hydroenergy – Clare County Council today outlined plans to facilitate the development of Pumped Freshwater Hydro Energy Storage facilities similar to those already developed at Turlough Hill in County Wicklow.

Three locations, namely Slieve Callan, Slieve Bernagh and Woodcock Hill, have been marked as 'indicative areas' for the proposed facilities which are outlined in the newly developed Draft Clare County Renewable Energy Strategy.

Just 24 hours after the ESB confirmed that its 40-50m euro West Wave project will go ahead off Killard in West Clare, Clare County Council has become one of the first local authorities in the country to seek to incorporate such a Renewable Energy Strategy into their County Development Plan.

The Draft Strategy outlines the potential for a range of renewable resources, including bioenergy and anaerobic digestion, micro renewables, geothermal, solar, hydro, energy storage, onshore and offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.

Some of the key objectives set out in the Strategy include the following:
• To maximise use in the County, of the available bioenergy resource to exceed national targets for renewable heat of 12% and 10% by 2020.
• To favourably consider the redevelopment of brown field sites in predominantly industrial / commercial areas for large solar PV projects.
• To work in partnership with the marine renewable energy sector (wave, tidal and offshore), DECNR, EirGrid and other relevant stakeholders to deliver the key actions recommended by the Ocean Renewable Energy Development Plan (OREDP) and Grid 25, ensuring that electricity generated off the coast of County Clare can be exported to the demand market subject to the requirements of all environmental legislation.
• To collaborate with EirGrid over the lifetime of the Strategy to ensure that County Clare has the grid infrastructure in place to maximise its potential for renewable energy generation to meet its own energy needs and to enable export to the demand market.
• To require all planning applications for new buildings to demonstrate how their designs have incorporated energy efficiency or passive measures, as a means of reducing future reliance on traditional fuel sources.

Members of the public have been invited to review the Draft Strategy and submit written submissions or observations on or before 11th April 2014.

Councillor Joe Arkins, Mayor of Clare welcomed the publication of the Draft Strategy, describing the harnessing of renewable energy resources as "a key method of attracting inward investment to County Clare".

The Mayor continued: "Clare County Council is taking a proactive approach to facilitating renewable energy development and through this Strategy is helping to guide the location and development of renewable energy proposals. A clear opportunity exists in Ireland, and particularly in County Clare, to exploit renewable energy resources. In doing so, the Council is seeking to create clean energy and attract inward investment to the County and the country at a time when Ireland is searching for solutions to many social and economic issues."

"The publication of this Draft Strategy is timely as it coincides with the announcement by the ESB of a wave energy project near Doonbeg which will have a spend of up to 50m euro with significant positive spinoffs for the local community and wider region," added Mayor Arkins.

According to Clare County Manager, Tom Coughlan: "The Draft Strategy acknowledges the significant contribution that a range of renewable resources can make to County Clare being more energy secure, less reliant on traditional fossil fuels, enabling future energy export and meeting assigned targets.

He added: "Clare is particularly fortunate to possess considerable wind, biomass, wave and tidal resources. It is imperative that we have a strategy in place to maximise the potential of these resources while minimising any environmental impacts, thus enabling the County to achieve a low-carbon economy."

Commenting on the proposal to facilitate the development of Pumped Freshwater Hydro Energy Storage (PFHES) facilities, Senior Council Planner Gordon Daly said such technology was "relatively underutilised in Ireland but presented significant potential for the domestic renewables sector".

Mr. Daly continued: "A pumped hydroelectric energy scheme is a mechanical device for storing energy. It consists of two large reservoirs located at different elevations, typically between 200-300m and a number of pump/turbine units. Fresh water stored in an upper reservoir is processed in a turbine to recover its energy. The turbine runs a generator which converts the mechanical energy into electricity which is fed to the grid. The processed water is then captured in a lower reservoir. When demand for electricity is low, usually at night, the water is pumped back up into the upper reservoir. Turlough Hill in County Wicklow is an example of a PHES system."

Copies of the Draft Clare County Renewable Energy Strategy and proposed variation to the Clare County Development Plan may be inspected during normal opening hours from Friday 14th March to Friday 11th April 2014 (inclusive) at the Planning and Enterprise Development Section, Clare Co. Council in Áras Contae an Chláir, all public libraries in Co. Clare and on the Clare County Council website (www.clarecoco.ie).

Submissions or observations should be addressed to: Planning and Enterprise Development, Clare County Council, Áras Contae an Chláir, New Road, Ennis, Co. Clare, no later than 4p.m. Friday 11th April 2014. Alternatively, submissions may also be emailed to [email protected] (maximum document size by e-mail: 4MB) or may be faxed to 065-6892071. Submissions made via email must include the full name and address of the person making the submission.

Published in Power From the Sea
Afloat.ie Team

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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

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