The 5GW wind capacity, dubbed Energy Bridge by Mainstream,will be completely separate from Ireland’s existing grid and will start exporting power across the Irish Sea from 2017, the company said. Mainstream has already invested over €500,000 to secure a grid connection to the UK and has identified 900 eligible landowners in the midlands to site the network of wind turbines.
Mainstream Renewable’s development manager for Ireland, Diarmuid Twomey, said: “We’ve spent the past year undertaking analysis to identify the most appropriate areas to site the onshore wind farms. These areas are already designated for wind farm development by the local authority, are in sparsely populated areas and have good wind speeds.”
The scheme needs just half of the 900 eligible land-owners to make the project viable, Twomey added.
Exports from the project would be the first from Ireland, which has enough renewables potential to meet its EU-mandated target of 40% renewable electricity by 2020. However the UK, which is larger and more densely populated, is likely to need to import renewable electricity if it is to meet its target of 15% renewable energy by 2020.
Last week Ireland’s energy minister Pat Rabitte met with the UK’s energy and climate change minister Charles Hendry to discuss Anglo-Irish electricity imports, with a memorandum of understanding expected by October.
According to Mainstream, which is headed up by former Airtricity boss Eddie O’Connor, the new capacity will bring in €2.5 billion to the Irish economy each year in export revenue.
O’Connor, Mainstream’s chief executive said: “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for Ireland and especially the midlands; we’re going to supply the UK with a big chunk of its electricity needs, generating €2.5 billion per annum in revenue which is almost the same as our dairy exports last year.”