An Irish energy expert's new book says Ireland has the potential to turn its energy the color of its green shamrocks and put lots of gold into the pockets of the Irish who lead the transition.
"Clean energy can help rescue Ireland from its current economic and energy challenges,"said John Travers, CEO of Alternative Energy Resources. In his new book, Green & Gold: Ireland: A Clean Energy World Leader?, Travers makes the case for the benefits that will come with transitioning the Emerald Isle to a new energy economy.
"Ireland is endowed with winds that are among the strongest in the world and the waves that crash against our western seaboard are some of the most powerful on the planet," Travers told a book release party audience at University College Dublin. "Harnessing these and other clean energy sources such as solar and biomass offers Ireland a golden opportunity to overcome the energy challenge it faces."
Graham Brennan, program manager for renewable-energy research and development at Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI), the government's green-technology arm, said that while the nation's peak electricity demand is approximately 6,000 megawatts, the wind blowing over the island contains 8,000 megawatts of power.
In addition, a recent white paper from Ireland's Marine Renewables Industry Association found that newly designated ocean energy test sites can lead to Ireland meeting its 500-megawatt target for wave and tidal capacity by 2020. And the recent Generation Adequacy Report 2010 - 2016, from EirGrid, reported there would be at least nine megawatts of new biomass capacity coming online each of the next seven years. While the report included no mention of coming solar development in Ireland, a new UK feed-in tariff could alter that.
According to Travers, Ireland can build enough renewable energy installed capacity to meet 20% of its energy needs by 2020 and it can generate 80% of its energy from renewables by 2050.
To fully achieve its potential, most experts believe more renewable energy storage will be necessary. To that end, SEI has a wind-battery storage project at a wind farm in Donegal and can expand on a 300-megawatt pumped hydro facility in Turlough Hill.
Travers also stressed that by using its renewable energy resources to free itself from its current 90% dependence on imported fossil fuels, Ireland can reap huge economic benefits. "There is the potential to create almost 100,000 jobs from harnessing renewable energy and applying energy efficiency," he said.
The East-West Interconnector, Ireland's major new 500-megawatt capacity transmission system, is due to come online in 2012, according to the EirGrid report. It will interweave the Irish and British grids and provide the opportunity to export the abundant renewable assets. The EU's planned Supergrid, conceived by Irish wind pioneer Eddie O'Connor, will expand the market for Ireland's wind even further. According to Travers, 20% of Ireland's GDP can come from exporting its renewable energy.
"In achieving energy independence, Ireland can become an outstanding world leader and a global beacon for the use of clean energy," Travers said.
John Travers is an engineering graduate of University College Dublin and has an MBA from Harvard University. He became the CEO of Alternative Energy Resources, a leading Irish alternative energy company, after stints with Shell International and McKinsey & Company. His previous book is Driving the Tiger: Irish Enterprise Spirit.