Renewable energy is not new to Ireland as in the 1930’s the generation of electricity was almost 100% renewable due to the Ardnacrusha hydro-power plant on the Shannon River. This was later followed by the construction of several more hydro plants which were completed by 1949 and together harnessed 75% of Ireland’s inland water power potential. This scenario has changed drastically over the years and it is now the case that the majority of Irish energy is produced by imported fossil fuels. This over reliance on fossil fuels, particularly oil, has left Ireland vulnerable to price fluctuations from the multinational energy companies, along with Ireland’s output from green house gases (GHG) reaching unacceptable levels.
Ireland experiences a competitive advantage over many other European countries in terms of the development of RE technologies. Its location on the western side of Europe ensures ideal climate conditions for wind energy with consistent and strong wind speeds from the Atlantic Ocean particularly along the western seaboard. Expansive mountain ranges guarantee a plentiful amount of potential wind farm sites. Its temperate climate is ideally suited to timber growth which can be used for biomass production along with energy crops and certain wastes. While hydro-power has been developed extensively, wave and tidal energy may offer huge potential in future if the necessary investment is made in research and development.
The diagram below illustrates the huge potential which renewable energy can provide to meet the worlds annual energy demand with solar energy capable of providing more energy every year than all the reserves of fossil fuel combined. Most renewable energy either directly or indirectly comes from the sun.
Some of the many benefits of renewable energy include:
Major Environmental Benefits – no harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
Energy Price Stability – affordable energy at long-term competitive prices.
A Stronger Irish Economy – local investment in long-term jobs rather than costly energy imports provides for stable economic growth & employment.
Better Energy Security & Fuel Diversity – Ireland is now the most import dependent economy in Europe, importing 86% of all our fuels in 2000, this impacts on our entire economy.
Energy for future generations – renewable energy will never run out.
As can be seen below Ireland is particularly suited to wind power generation as it is positioned on the western side of Europe which allows it to take advantage of strong winds from the Atlantic Ocean particularly along the western seaboard.