Independent Wind Farming – Empowering the new Economy
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What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy comes from energy resources that are continuously replenished through the cycles of nature. Unlike fossil fuels, their supply will never become exhausted. The main sources of renewable energy are the sun (solar energy), the wind, moving water (hydropower, wave and tidal energy), heat below the surface of the earth (geothermal energy) and biomass (wood, waste, energy crops). For more information see About renewable energy.

Where does wind energy come from?

Ultimately all our energy comes from the sun. The heat in the solar energy that reaches the Earth drives air masses around the globe. Hot air is lighter than cold air so to achieve a balanced temperature the air begins to move, giving rise to wind. This wind sweeps across Earth’s surface and it will continue to do so for as long as the sun shines. We can harness this diffuse energy with wind turbines and transform it into electricity.

How long has wind been used as a source of energy?

Since Ancient Times wind energy has been used for sailing, grain milling and irrigation. The earliest recorded windmill in Ireland dates back to 1281 (Kilscanlon, Co. Wexford) and by 1840 around 250 windmills existed.

Over the last few decades there has been renewed interest in wind energy due to its environmental benefits over fossil fuel combustion of coal, oil, gas and peat. It offers increased security of supply as it is considered an indigenous resource.

What is the current installed wind capacity in Ireland?

Source: Eirgrid, Connected Wind Report 2009

Installed wind capacity as of October 2009 is 575MW connecting to the distribution network and 586 connected to transmission network; total 1,161MW.

Where can I find out more information on wind energy?

The Renewable Energy Information Office is operated by Sustainable Energy Ireland. The Office provides independent expert advice on financial, social, environmental and technical issues relating to all renewable energy resources including wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass.

Contact Sustainable Energy Ireland, Renewable Energy Information Office, Shinagh House, Bandon, Co. Cork. Tel: 023 8842193, Fax: 023 8829154,
Email:, Web: Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland

See our Links section for more sources of general information


How much do wind turbines cost?

As a very rough guide the total investment for a wind turbine averages €2million per installed megawatt. A 5 MW farm could cost about €10 million. This figure will vary according to technical choices made and the particular features of the site.

There are dozens of manufacturers providing wind turbines which vary in size, power output, materials used, technologies employed and costs. Overall costs will be determined by scale, operation and maintenance contracts and levels of warranty. Quotes should be obtained from a number of manufactures.

What is the breakdown of project costs?

Typically the distribution of projects costs will be;

  • Wind turbines; 70%
  • Civil engineering works 11%
  • Electrical infrastructure and commissioning 7%
  • Electrical network connection
  • Project development and O&M costs 7%

Are wind turbines noisy?

Measured noise levels of approximately 50dB(A) are expected at the base of a modern turbine, equivalent to noise levels in a busy office. You can hold a conversation at the base of a wind turbine without having to raise your voice.

In order to minimise noise related impacts to local residents, it is recommended that wind turbine noise does not exceed 5 dB(A) above the background noise at the nearest noise sensitive location.

Can the output from a wind turbine be predicted?

In order to predict the output of a wind turbine hours or even days in advance so as to optimise the use of other means of electricity production, one has to be able to make very precise predictions on wind speed at the exact location of each wind farm. Wind forecasting systems are operating successfully in Denmark and Germany with accurate 4-hour wind forecasts using the latest modern computer systems. There are several research programs working on this here in Ireland following from these successful wind prediction models in operation in Europe


What are the policy drivers for wind energy in Ireland?

The EU Renewable Energy Directive, 2009/28/EC sets the following targets from renewables by 2020 for Ireland;

  • 16% of final energy needs
  • 10% of transport energy

Member states are required to submit National Action Plans with measures to meet these targets by June 2010.

The All Ireland Electricity Grid Study, published in 2008 examined the following;

  • A range of generation portfolios for Ireland
  • The ability of our power system to handle various amounts of electricity from renewable sources
  • Investment levels required, and Climate change and security of supply benefits

The Energy White Paper, 2007 entitled “Delivering a Sustainable Energy Future for Ireland” sets the following targets;

  • 15% of electricity by 2010
  • 40% of electricity by 2020
  • 5% of heat by 2010
  • 12% of heat by 2010

The National Climate Change Strategy, 2007 – 2012 aims to limit greenhouse gas emission to 13% above 1990 levels. Key points include;

  • A reduction of annual CO2 emissions by 1million tones by 2010
  • A review of rate and structure of energy taxes
  • Fuel switching from coal to renewable energy

The National Development Plan, 2007 – 2013 allocated a total investment of €8.5billion in energy. Investment areas include;

  • Key strategic energy infrastructure projects including the East/West and North/South interconnectors and ongoing investment in sustainable energy with a view to meeting the target of 15% of electricity production from renewable sources by 2010.

The Kyoto Protocol;

In Ireland, greenhouse gas emissions have been limited to a 13% increase over 1990 levels by the period 2008 – 2012.

Electricity Act 1999 sets out the following measures;

  • Full deregulation of the market for electricity generated by renewable sources
  • Priority dispatch of electricity generated from renewable sources
  • Establishment of the Commission of Energy Regulation

EC Directive, 2001/1771/EC

EU target of 22% of electricity from renewable energy by 2010
Ireland to generate a minimum of 13% electricity from renewable energy by 2010

Project Development and Construction

Can anyone build a Windfarm?

Yes, anyone such as private individuals, a company, a group of shareholders (e.g. a community scheme), a mixed economy business can build a windfarm as long as they have suitable land and enough finance. Windfarm owners or investors generally hand over responsibility for the project design, management and maintenance to specialised professional companies.

Can anyone build a Windfarm?

Yes, anyone such as private individuals, a company, a group of shareholders (e.g. a community scheme), a mixed economy business can build a windfarm as long as they have suitable land and enough finance. Windfarm owners or investors generally hand over responsibility for the project design, management and maintenance to specialised professional companies.

Is my site suitable?

Despite Ireland having the best wind resource in Europe, not all sites are suitable for the development of a wind farm. Your site may be suitable if you can answer yes to most of the following questions;

  • Is the site windy?
  • Is the proposed area on a flat plain, at an elevation of more than 200m in a hilly area or located close to the coast?
  • Does it ‘face’ a southerly or south-westerly direction free of obstacles such as mountains, town?
  • Are the nearest dwellings more than 400 metres from your land boundaries?
  • Is your land outside a designated SAC (Special Area of Conservation), NHA (National Heritage Area), a national park, or other designated areas?
  • Is there access to the National Grid close by?
  • Will the proposed site avoid affecting electromagnetic communication systems (e.g. microwave links)?
  • Is the site accessible and are ground conditions suitable for development?
  • Are there wind farm developments already operational in the area or are there developments granted planning permission close by?
  • Have you discussed your proposal with the local planning office and neighbours (adjacent landowners, or landowners in the immediate vicinity, residents at nearby houses etc.) and are they satisfied with your proposals?

Before you take the project further you should get professional support to review all your options including the development of alternative sites.

What are the first steps when developing a windfarm?

See Steps to Developing a Project

Are there serious concerns about the sitting and noise levels from turbines?

There are some concerns and issues that must be addressed, but complaints about excessive noise from turbines are not supportable. Modern turbines are commonly agreed by unbiased commentators to pose a minimal audible intrusion to the environment.

The proposed siting of turbines has been a cause of some concern in certain quarters, but the experience of countries which have a more developed wind power infrastructure is that public approval increases with familiarity. Here again, the modern type of turbine is a more pleasing aesthetically than its fore-runner.

But obviously MnaG recognises that however attractive the mast, there will be instances and sites where turbines will not be acceptable. The co-op members are conscious that early unfavourable publicity will not benefit the long-term future of the national wind resource. To that end there is a need to address any issues and potential difficulties in an honest and forthright manner. The co-operative members are part of the local community and would share the concerns in those particular instances. What Meitheal na Gaoithe will resist are attempts to place blanket bans on wind turbine erections or on wind-speed monitoring masts. Each planning application will be decided on a case-to-case basis.

At a basic level the colour of wind turbines will have an obvious influence on its visual impact. There are documented instances where careful painting in appropriate colours have had a major affect on the appearance of turbines. But at a more subtle level, this matter can be addressed as to why people choose to site wind turbines where they do.

Electricity Market

Every generator is given a daily dispatch schedule (power to be exported to the grid). In some cases this will be below their maximum export capacity and at other times the generators may be required to decrease/increase generation at a moment’s notice to match demand. Thus generators receive a payment for the electricity they sell and a capacity payment for their availability to generate above their scheduled dispatch.

Who sets the price?

The electricity market prices are set by the Single Market Operator (SEMO). Prices are published on half-hourly basis and are calculated after the event. The price is a single market price for electricity and is based mainly on the cost of the energy used for that period.

In periods of low demand, prices will be lower as the most efficient and low cost generation plants on the system are dispatched (told to generate by the grid operator). As electricity demand increases, the amount of generators exporting to the grid needs to be increased. This is done incrementally, by continuously dispatching the next least expensive generator to the system. In this way the cost of generation is kept to a minimum.

Benefits and Environmental Issues

What are the benefits to the land-owner?

A farmer/landowner can lease his/her land to a developer to erect wind turbines. This can take the form of an annual payment, and/or land rental – typically between 2.5% and 3.5% of electricity sales. This type of arrangement incurs no investment costs on the landowner.

Land rental alone more than compensates any loss of agricultural production, given that a wind turbine occupies such a small amount of land. Wind farming and conventional farming are perfectly compatible and can operate together. At the end of their working life the turbines can be replaced or removed and the land re-instated to its original condition

Why should farmers and rural communities become involved in renewable energy?

Wind energy is a rural resource and benefits include;

  • Additional sustainable income
  • Alternative use for land
  • Diversification of farming activities
  • Local educational resource
  • Creates local employment

Is wind energy going to be important to the future of rural Ireland?

Rural Ireland has lagged behind the urban areas in its rate of economic development. The agricultural community, in particular, has seen its income drastically cut, with severe knock-on effects for the economic and social fabric of the wider rural community. In this context Meitheal na Gaoithe believes that it is vital that both the agricultural community and the wider community grasps the opportunity that generation and supply of alternative energy provides. Ireland is already at the 13% limit increase over our 1990 figure on greenhouse gas emissions agreed by 2010 under the Kyoto objectives! As it now stands the state is in line for massive penal fines, unless it can quickly replace conventional power generating capacity with non-polluting green alternatives. The source and production of green / alternative energies will of necessity be largely based in rural Ireland.

What are the environmental benefits of wind energy over fossil fuel combustion?

No wastes during operation including none of the following;

  • Polluting emissions
  • Dust particles
  • Refuse / effluent / ash
  • Effect on local water / air quality

At the end of a turbines life it can be replaced or when the site is decommissioned it can be restored to its original state.

Each year, for every megawatt of Irish wind energy that displaces fossil fuel power production, environmental benefits includes;

  • Clean electricity to meet the electricity needs of 650 homes
  • Removes the need to import 6,450 barrels of oil
  • The avoidance of 2,700 tonnes of CO2
  • The avoidance of 49 tonnes of SO2
  • The avoidance of 5.5 tonnes of NOx
  • The avoidance of 175 tonnes of slag and ash for landfill

What’s the attitude of the environmental lobby to wind power?

The environmental lobby is in general very supportive of wind power. The Green Party has made frequent statements supporting the development of wind energy in Ireland as an answer to Ireland’s chronic dependence on imported fossil fuels.

How does a Windfarm benefit the local community?

The operator of a wind farm must pay both rates and manufacturing tax. As they are based on the value of the assets these taxes are quite high due to the considerable investment involved in a wind farm. Rates vary from one local authority to another and can be as much as €8,000 per installed MW per year. This source of revenue directly benefits the citizens of the area and is usually distributed through projects in the locality.

Construction jobs can be provided throughout the construction period and road and foundation materials are likely to be sourced locally. When complete, a smaller number of jobs are created through operation and maintenance duties, which are both long-term and sustainable.

Where community schemes are developed, stakeholders (usually limited to those in the wind farm’s community) can reap the benefits directly through share divided payments.