Green hydrogen from Ireland? In 8 years to “Saudi Arabia of wind power”

D.the first chance was wasted. Twenty years have passed since an offshore wind farm was built off the Irish town of Arklow, at the time only the second project of its kind in the world. But despite the advantage and although Ireland is considered the perfect place for wind energy given its location in the North Atlantic, Arklow has remained unique in the country to this day.

The wind turbine capacity is only 25 megawatts (MW), located on a sandbank ten kilometers from the island in the Irish Sea. “We did not take this opportunity,” Peter Coyle admitted to the Environment and Climate Protection Committee of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament, in early March.

Coyle, now head of the industry association for renewable energy from the sea, worked for three decades in the Irish Department for Business. High-ranking officials did not believe the proposals. “I’m one of those people who didn’t take the chance. We often laughed at offshore wind.”

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But this should change very quickly, a fundamental rethinking has begun in the country. The country wants to halve its gross emissions by 2030, when 80% of its electricity will come from renewable sources. The island wants to be carbon neutral by 2050 at the latest, as set out in an ambitious law last year.

Wind energy plays a key role in the energy and emissions plan, Ian O’Hara, head of sustainability at IDA Ireland, the country’s investment promotion agency, said in an interview with WELT. “Our ambition is to expand capacity to five gigawatts by 2030.” With the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority, a new authority was tasked with planning and supporting the project. Coyle promised the island could become the Saudi Arabia of wind and waves in the near future.

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Seven new wind farms are already in the planning stage, some have received partial approval, others full approval. Most of these are located in the Irish Sea off the east coast, with one to the west near Galway. Three to five billion are estimated for each of the projects, but there is a lot of interest, including from international developers. Promoters include RWE, Norway’s Statkraft, UK’s SSE Renewables and France’s EDF.

Construction projects are also expected to help reduce CO₂ emissions of state-based companies by a good third by 2030 from the current eight million tons. In addition, there are clear guidelines for the transport industry and housing. Gas boilers are still by far the most important heating method in the country.

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The wind turbines are located in an offshore wind farm.

“With the construction [der neuen Windräder] will start in 2023, “O’Hara said. If these seven projects are implemented as planned in the next few years, Ireland will produce enough wind energy in eight years to cover current needs. Climate Minister Eamonn Ryan predicts that between four years the first new offshore farms will feed energy into the grid.

“We are going full steam ahead, accelerating as much as possible,” he said at the end of March. When the goals were released two years ago, they would have been considered very ambitious. “But I think that due to everything that is happening in Ukraine, this is the least of our goals.”

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The north depends on the south

For a second phase of expansion starting in 2030, a number of suitable seascapes have also been identified around the island. “The wind blows so regularly here, which gives us a great opportunity. In the long run, we can generate up to 70 gigawatts here, “promised O’Hara.

For comparison: Britain, which is a whopping 13 times the size of its neighboring island in terms of population, now has 10.5 gigawatts of offshore capacity – only China has more. An expansion to 86 gigawatts is in the works in the UK, more than anywhere else in the world.

More than half of the electricity generated by the wind

Wind already plays an important role in the generation of electricity in Ireland. In February, more than half of electricity was generated by wind for the first time, 53% on a monthly average. In the long run, according to O’Hara, it is about 40%. The rest has so far been provided by the generation of electricity from our North Sea gas reserves. But the supplies are running out.

So far, the renewable part of the electricity comes from the approximately 300 wind farms on the island. Its capacity is 4.3 gigawatts. O’Hara admits that most of the island land suitable for wind turbines is used. On the other hand, practically the entire area off the coast is destined for offshore wind, at least in perspective.

However, experts have doubts about the timetable for putting significantly more offshore wind energy into the grid from 2026 onwards. If all goes according to plan, approval procedures, the necessary expansion of the electricity grid, the second wind farm could deliver in late 2027 or early 2028, calculated Noel Cunniffe, head of Wind Energy Ireland, the association. the country’s wind industry.

consequences for seabirds

But not everyone is happy with this development. In the fisheries sector, there are concerns that wind turbines may be built in the best fishing areas and that they will affect the resources of those areas. John Lynch of the South and East Fish Producers Organization complained that consultations between the two sides had not so far been satisfactory. Especially the fishing boats pulling the nets behind them would be negatively affected by the structures. Conservationists are also pointing out the possible consequences for seabirds.

However, the government is confident that up to 80 percent of electricity demand will come from renewable sources in the near future. Wind energy is already integrated to a lesser extent than solar, according to O’Hara. However, a particular research and development focus is on green hydrogen, i.e. the production of hydrogen from water by electrolysis, made possible entirely by renewable energy.

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On the one hand, it could be used as an energy reserve to provide lulls. On the other hand, given the capacity targets, which significantly exceed Irish energy needs, it could also be used for export.

Germany has already expressed its interest in this. In Germany, green hydrogen is an important component of decarbonisation in the energy debate. Stefan Kaufmann, hydrogen official in the research ministry, already sees a new era for energy cooperation between the two countries.

A German-Irish Council on Hydrogen, set up by the Chamber of Commerce and meeting for the first time at the end of February, is intended to help create the conditions. Ireland, long known as the Emerald Isle, will likely expand this image further.

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