July and August this year set new records for wind power generation in Ireland.
Wind power generation temporarily exceeded the total demand for electricity in Ireland for the first time ever this week.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning, wind generation reached a high of 3,642 MW. Though Storm Agnes brought strong winds across the country, it isn’t unusual for it to reach this level.
What was unusual was the fact that it surpassed the demand on Ireland’s electricity grid throughout the entire island for the first time.
Wind Energy Ireland’s (WEI) Director of External Affairs Justin Moran told Irish newspaper The Journal that this was a “major achievement for Ireland’s wind farms”.
It shows that there is potential for the country to decarbonise its electricity system, he added.
Was Ireland powered entirely by wind energy?
It is a big milestone for Ireland but there are a few caveats to this wind power feat.
Currently, the country’s electricity grid is only permitted to have a maximum of 75 per cent renewables in its energy mix. That meant that some of the energy was exported to Britain and Ireland had to meet the rest of the demand using fossil fuels.
This limit has gone up over the years from 50 to 75 per cent since 2011 and is set to increase further to 95 per cent by 2030. It is in place because using entirely renewable power means changes have to be made to the country’s electricity grid.
There are major technical challenges associated with integrating electricity from wind farms, solar farms and interconnectors that link Ireland’s power system with other countries.
Ireland is setting new records for wind power
Earlier this month, WEI announced that both July and August had surpassed previous monthly records for wind power generation.
“That is Irish generators producing power without burning imported fossil fuels, which means we can cut our carbon emissions at the same time as we cut our fuel imports,” said Noel Cunniffe, CEO of the wind industry body.
In August, the amount of energy generated by wind increased by 71 per cent when compared to the same month last year. Ireland’s average wholesale price of electricity was also 72 per cent lower than in August 2022.
The latest figures mean that in total, Irish wind farms provided 32 per cent of the country’s power over the first eight months of 2023. Electricity prices on days with the most wind power dropped by an average of 5 per cent to €88.34 per megawatt-hour.
On days when Ireland relied almost entirely on fossil fuels, that cost rose to €123.07 per megawatt-hour.
“Affordability is really important as well as reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,” Cunniffe added.