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Interest in renewable energy is booming in Ireland with the inclusion of the Greens in the Government.  However our largest company in the sector - Airtricity - is in the process of being sold off. Hopefully this will not lead to the domination of the industry by a small cartel of businesses with a virtual monopoly - who can then set prices at a very high level and stifle the growth of the industry overall.

We don't have any nuclear power and so have one of the largest carbon footprints in the world.  However we also have one of the best wind/wave power resources and hopefully this will make a big contribution to meeting our Kyoto targets and beyond.

Onshore wind farms are hugely controversial because of their impact on the landscape and so the really big contribution will be made by off shore farms.  Small domestic windmills are exempted from needed planning permission which will probably result in a proliferation of one off windmills on farms/larger holding etc.

I'm not sure this is the best way to proceed as it could result in a [political backlash due to neighbours being unhappy with noise/visual impact etc. and I am also not sure whether the national electricity company accepts "net billing" at this point - i.e. whether they will buy and offset any wind power surpluses against electricity bought in by such households on calm days.

Given the natural fluctuations in wind availability, do you know what is the max % contribution that wind can make to overall national electricity generation before it results in brown-outs on calm days and excess production capacity on windy days?

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 10:57:18 AM EST

Hopefully this will not lead to the domination of the industry by a small cartel of businesses with a virtual monopoly - who can then set prices at a very high level and stifle the growth of the industry overall.

I'm not sure I understand your point. Airtricity is a developer of wind farms. Developers get a fixed tariff determined by government (whether a feed-in tariff or via green certificates) and have no leeway whatsoever. Even in the regulatory frameworks where markets play a role, that market is driven by how it's set out by the regulator (and there are EU rules about that). Regulations are made to provide higher prices to wind developers, that's the whole point - and have long been opposed by utilities who had to pay for them directly (and charge them on indirectly to users).

Now that utilities are getting into the wind game, they are on both sides of the price formula and don't really care anymore where it's set - one hand gets what the other pays out.


Given the natural fluctuations in wind availability, do you know what is the max % contribution that wind can make to overall national electricity generation before it results in brown-outs on calm days and excess production capacity on windy days?

See the link in my diary above: No technical limitation to wind power penetration

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 02:00:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Many thanks.  My point about near monopolies increasing prices is probably more relevant to the cost of putting more capacity out there (which in a fixed regulatory price environment impacts directly on profit margins and the incentive to add capacity.  Thus if there are only a couple of suppliers providing large turbines to the off shore market - they can charge more, reducing operator margins and thus the rate of investment/capacity increase.

Thanks for the link to your excellent diary on the level of fixed conventional capacity that can be displaced by variable wind capacity.  It should be noted that this displacement rate can go up if:

  1. Energy storage technologies are used - Ireland has a large man make lake on top of a mountain (Turlough Hill) which is filled up at times of energy surplus and emptied at times of peak demand.  As we move to hybrid cars with rechargeable batteries these could also be preferentially charged overnight whenever demand is low.  Ditto for buildings designed to be giant storage heaters.

  2. As the market/grid size is increased - e.g. by Ireland building additional inter-connector capacity with Britain. The larger the distribution network/market, the greater the fluctuations which can be absorbed, and the greater the statistical probability that some places will be windy to make up for those places which are not.

I don't know what the economics of transmitting power over very long distances are - it probably doesn't make sense for surplus power on a windy day in Ireland to be transmitted to Poland even if it could displace conventional capacity there, but I would be interested in what the optimum size of such a network/grid would be.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Dec 8th, 2007 at 05:30:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The industry has been concentrated for many years now, and that hasn't really been a problem. There has been a recent influx of large engineering companies (GE buying the old Enron Wind in 2002, Siemens buying Bonus in 2003 and, more recently, Areva and Alstom entering the market, via respectively Multibrid and Ecotecnia), which is a good thing as this provides stronger balance sheets to what were until now farily small companies.

Note that some of the biggest players (notably the market leader, Vestas) are still "pure-plays", companies that do only wind turbines, like Gamesa, Suzlon/Repower or Enercon (that last one making by far the best turbines around, but refusing to sell them offshore because it cannot ensure its usual quality standards yet).

With the utilities coming in force on the buying side, the market is quite competitive and balanced - even though it structurally favors manufacturers right now as demand outstrips supply.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 05:12:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You might want to look at some future point at wind-powered manufacturing for remote locations, where there are no transmission lines.
by tjbuff (timhess@adelphia.net) on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 01:08:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thus if there are only a couple of suppliers providing large turbines to the off shore market - they can charge more, reducing operator margins and thus the rate of investment/capacity increase.

Would that really make sense for the companies? By charging more, they would earn more on a reduced number of projects, and increase the risk to themselves from small numbers, e.g. big year-to-year changes in the order books when only a few projects are realised each year.

it probably doesn't make sense for surplus power on a windy day in Ireland to be transmitted to Poland even if it could displace conventional capacity there, but I would be interested in what the optimum size of such a network/grid would be.

The Netherlands and Italy are two countries with chronic electricity generation/consumption deficit. Imports come to the former from as far as the Czech Republic and (via Germany) Central France, while imports to virtually all parts of the latter come from France along various routes (including through Germany and he Alps countries from Northern France. I seem to remember that both countries of the Iberian Peninsula also import from France (maybe Torres or Luis de Souza can confirm from Portugal). So I guess half the Ireland-Poland distance is viable.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Dec 9th, 2007 at 01:09:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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