Category Archives: Wind output

Irish government modelling of wind energy potential

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Today, 16 January 2017, almost four years on from the first public call for submissions on the proposed revision of the 2006 wind energy guidelines, we are sharing information in relation to modelling undertaken by the RPS Group, in 2015, which was commissioned by the Sustainable Authority of Ireland (SEAI) for the then Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources (now the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment) and the then Department of Environment, Community and Local Government (now the department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government).

RPS were commissioned to model Ireland’s land area and power generating potential from wind energy developments, taking into account a number of variable factors including:

  • Turbine size, type and hub/tip height;
  • Noise and shadow flicker;
  • Proposed setback distances;
  • Minimum wind speeds;
  • Terrain contours; and
  • Ground factors.

The background to this modelling was the proposed technical revision to the Wind Energy Development Guidelines 2006. As regular readers of this blog will be aware the proposed technical revision has turned into a political hot potato with no Minister yet willing to stand up to the wind industry, despite the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment declaring that the current guidelines are ‘not fit for purpose’. The proposed Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and further consultation have still not been commenced.

Nevertheless, the discussion in the RPS Group, Report on Wind Turbine Noise Modelling, of 11 May 2015 is startling for most communities, as RPS through consultations with the wind industry expect tip heights of between 150m to 175m to be the norm for future developments, with 200m tip heights being required for some low wind sites.  Possible setback distances emerging from the acoustic modelling are also quiet frightening (see copy of table 3.2 below).

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Documents, in PDF, we are sharing are:

Further iterations of the modeling then followed which were also released:

Please note these documents were shared with us by a friend of this blog, who gained access to them under the Access to Environmental Information Regulations.  Access was only granted following a number of Appeals to the Commissioner for Environmental Information; with the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, further delaying release for three months despite the Commissioners decision.  We are heartened that the Commissioner in deciding that these documents should be released stated:

In my opinion, it is at least possible that disclosure of the withheld information would help the public to scrutinise the reasons put forward by politicians in delaying this important policy decision.  I therefore accept that this public interest argument would favour disclosure now, before a decision is made.

… if disclosure were to lead to a submission being made to the Department which was of such import that it could not be ignored, such a submission would appear to be highly important and very much in the public interest. There is a strong public interest in making the decision [in relation to the revised guidelines] as soon as possible, but there is also a strong public interest in getting it right.
For these reasons I am not persuaded that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. As that is my conclusion, I must find that refusal to provide access to the withheld information is not justified on this ground.

With the Commissioners words ringing in our ears we are calling on our readers and followers to review, scrutinise and find flaws in the reasons relied upon by your politicians and policy makers.

We are also welcoming guest blogs on this issue and if any of you out there want to provide some much needed technical analysis of these documents and to publish on this blog (or to make a valuable submission to the Minister), please e-mail us at: cawt.donegal@gmail.com.

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Irish wind output lows of 2016

2016-wind-low

As 2016 begins to fade into the memory the media will be full of lists of the “highs and lows” from the year.  Each year our blog report of the Irish wind farm output lows for the previous year (see 2014, 2015) is one of the most read posts on our blog, so here are the lows for 2016 (ROI).

As with last year our more traditional media only seem capable of reporting on wind output highs – no doubt the data is churned out of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) PR department, see for example New records set for wind energy generation across Ireland during Christmas 2016, and subsequent copy and paste articles on Irish Times and NewsTalk.

In order to provide a little balance set out below is a table of the lowest wind output recorded, for the Republic of Ireland, in each of the last twelve months.  The lowest recorded being sustained periods with no output at all in February, May and October and the annual record low falling on 16 May 2016 when wind output was at a sustained recorded level of -3MW (all figures were sourced from EirGrid information webpage).

Month Recorded Output Low Date & Time
January 29 19/01/2016 04:15
February 0 11/02/2016 14:00
March 12 22/03/2016 04:15
April 4 19/04/2016 05:15
May -3 16/05/2016 09:00
June 4 08/06/2016 08:15
July 8 22/07/2016 21:15
August 3 14/08/2016 10:15
September 17 19/09/2016 19:00
October -2 20/10/2016 17:15
November 7 02/11/2016 16:00
December 39 14/12/2016 17:30

For some context for readers in relation to the output figures, according to IWEA the island of Ireland has 249 wind farms (215 in ROI) with an installed capacity of 3,301MW (2,659.116MW in ROI).   Demand on the island of Ireland fluctuates between 2,600MW – 6,100MW but reached a high of 6,878MW in December 2010.  It is clear therefore that wind energy outputs of between 0MW – 39MW (ROI) represent a very poor return for the Republic’s 2,659MW installed capacity.

So, the next time you see a pro-wind advert (remember that unlawfully broadcast JFK Power to Power Ourselves advertisement) or read an IWEA inspired “record Irish wind output” story check back to this page and visit EirGrid’s information page to confirm that despite the spin, the energy produced by wind turbines is unpredictable, intermittent and totally dependent on the backup of conventional fossil fuelled power plants such as those fuelled by gas, oil, coal or peat.


The media and a Tipperary wind farm

windfarms-in-the-media-tipperary-2016

It seems that Tipperary are getting in on the wind farm act lately and as with most counties in Ireland, those in the receiving environment/communities are opposing this.  What has interested our blog however is the media response to the substantial number of objections (more than 200 received by the local council) to the proposed development.

Rather than focus on the substantive issues raised by the objectors, the media, in this case The Sunday Times, focused on only 3 of the objectors in a piece on 11 September 2016 with a headline Lord blasts Tipperary wind farm plan.  We understand that a number of complaints were made to the Sunday Times who rather than directing them to the Press Ombudsman sought letters which they would publish.  This resulted in the letters published on 18 September 2016 (picture above).

One of those letter writers and a sometime contributor to this blog, Peter Crossan, also wrote to the times but his letter was edited.  I have a copy of his full response letter below and it is worth a read:

Dear Editor

In reference to your article of Sunday last ‘Lord blasts Tipperary wind farm plan’, I would request that your paper afford me the opportunity of drawing the public’s attention to the fact that a total of 205 observations were received by Tipperary Co Council opposing this development.

The application by DunoAir to develop 8 wind turbines and all associated works near Faugheen in County Tipperary has been vehemently opposed by the local community.

I prepared and submitted an observation to the County Council on behalf of the Suir Valley Environmental Group and the application was subsequently refused on four substantial grounds by the County Council.

The applicants DunoAir have since appealed this refusal to An Bord Pleanala while Lord and Lady Mangan and Anne Marie and Aidan O’Brien have also lodged appeals to the Bord on the basis that the refusal by Tipperary County Council did not go far enough in addressing their concerns.

In the coming week I will be submitting an observation on the appeals on behalf of local residents under the auspices of Suir Valley Environmental Group.

It should be realised that the landscape in which this development is proposed is significant in terms of its cultural heritage. The iconic Slievenamon which forms part of the landscape character setting of the area, hosts the most southerly Passage Tomb in Ireland at Knockroe and its alignment with the rising and setting sun of the winter solstice will be impacted by this development.

The High Crosses at Kilkieran would also be visually impacted by the proposed development, and a number of other archaeological sites in the area, such as Baunfree Passage Tomb which is aligned with the Cairn on the summit of Slievenamon.

This is a unique landscape and setting and the proposed development is totally contrary to the conservation objectives set out for the area in the local County Development Plan.

There is a long check list of issues which point towards proper planning and sustainable development and when considered clearly illustrate the unsuitability of this proposal for the area.

Your article suggests that the proposed wind farm would generate sufficient electricity to service 15,000 homes and this is completely unsubstantiated, and while this figure is suggested by the applicants it is simply unproven and untrue.

It is long overdue that we have a proper National debate on the merits of this kind of development and what is our understanding of what represents proper and sustainable development in rural Ireland.

Yours Sincerely

Peter Crossan

So, what does this tell us: the media in Ireland are caught in an awkward position.  Headlines such as Lord Blasts wind farm, is very useful click-bait in our digital media age. Most news outlets know that wind farm stories drive readers and eye-balls to their websites.  But this also hides an unwillingness by most media outlets to question big-wind or indeed to delve deeper in to the real issues haunting local communities when big-wind comes to town, never mind address the environmental impacts of inappropriately sited developments.

We have recently seen RTE and TV3 losing out on €500,000 of income from the wind industry advertising campaign, following the BAI decision to declare the JFK advertisement unlawful.  Like it or not wind farms and their promoters are big spenders in the advertising and media realm, their money talks and whether consciously or not the media always follow the money.  While this continues local communities are unlikely to have their stories in battling big-wind presented in a fair and even way.  So, best of luck to the ordinary people of Tipperary lets hope the media dig deeper and question the merits of this kind of development and what is our understanding of what represents proper and sustainable development in rural Ireland.

 


Irish wind output lows of 2015

2015 wind low output

As 2015 begins to fade into the memory the media will be full of lists of the “highs and lows” from the year.  Last year our report of the Irish wind output lows for 2014 was one of the most read posts on our blog so here are the lows for 2015 (ROI).

As with last year our print media only seem capable of reporting on wind output highs – no doubt the data is churned out of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) PR department, see for example Stormy Week Sees Wind Energy Hit Record Generation (PDF).  In order to provide a little balance set out below is a table of the lowest wind output recorded, for the Republic of Ireland, in each of the last twelve months.  The lowest recorded being periods in August, September and October when wind output was at a sustained level of just 1MW (all figures were sourced from EirGrid information webpage).

Month Output Low Date & Time
January 16MW 22/01/2015 01:30
February 5MW 10/02/2015 07:00
March 3MW 18/03/2015 03:45
April 5MW 07/04/2015 09:30
May 14MW 07/05/2015 07:30
June 6MW 23/06/2015 09:00
July 3MW 01/07/2015 10:00
August 1MW 18/08/2015 09:30
September 1MW 07/09/2015 07:45
October 1MW 03/10/2015 15:30
November 11MW 04/11/2015 04:45
December 20MW 26/12/2015 10:30

For some context for readers in relation to the output figures, according to IWEA the island of Ireland has 233 wind farms (199 in ROI) with an installed capacity of 3,042MW (2,400 in ROI).   Demand on the island of Ireland fluctuates between 2,600MW – 6,100MW but reached a high of 6,878MW in December 2010.  It is clear therefore that wind energy outputs of between 1MW – 20MW (ROI) represent a very poor return for the Republic’s 2,400MW installed capacity.

So, the next time you read an IWEA inspired “record Irish wind output” story check back to this page and visit EirGrid’s information page to confirm that despite the spin, the energy produced by wind turbines is unpredictable, intermittent and totally dependent on the backup of conventional fossil fuelled power plants such as those fuelled by gas, oil, coal or peat.


Irish wind output lows of 2014

As 2014 begins to fade into the memory the media will be full of lists of the “highs and lows” from the year.  However, what is notable each year is that our media only seem capable of reporting on wind output highs – no doubt the data is churned out of the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) PR department.  This story on Christmas eve 2014 by the Journal.ie is just one such example.  In order to provide a little balance set out below is a table of the lowest wind output recorded, on the island of Ireland, in each of the last twelve months.  The lowest recorded being a period in October when wind output was at a sustained level of zero or below* (all figures were sourced from EirGrid wind generation webpage).

For some context for readers in relation to the output figures, according to IWEA the island of Ireland has 222 wind farms (188 in ROI) with an installed capacity of 2,889MW (1826 in ROI).   Demand on the island of Ireland fluctuates between 2,600MW – 6,100MW but reached a high of 6,878MW in December 2010.

While the figures speak for themselves, it is clear that the wind output lows are a very small percentage return on the installed capacity, ranging from 0 – 3%, and the figures also show that at times wind contributes little to meet even the average daily electricity demand on the island of Ireland.

Month Output Date/Time
January 54MW 08/01/2014 15:00
February 97MW 06/02/2014 16:00
March 2MW 13/03/2014 11:30
April 7MW 18/04/2014 06:45
May 3MW 26/05/2014 09:00
June 7MW 18/06/2014 09:00
July 8MW 15/07/2014 08:45
August 7MW 01/08/2014 10:45
September 2MW 09/09/2014 09:15
October ZERO 11/10/2014 – 12/10/2014*
November 11MW 05/11/2014 11:45
December 24MW 28/12/2014 12:15

*The ZERO October output is the lowest in the last few years with sustained periods on 11th and 12th October 2014 generating no wind output and some even returning negative figures.  Visit EirGrid wind generation page to see for yourself.

So, the next time you read an IWEA inspired “record Irish wind output” story check back to this page and visit EirGrid wind generation page to confirm that despite the spin, the energy produced by wind turbines is unpredictable, intermittent and totally dependent on the backup of conventional fossil fuelled power plants such as those fuelled by gas, oil, coal or peat.


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