Leading the world in renewables

A first mover does not necessarily have the advantage. However, movement is necessary if you want to be first. And move they do, and again.

47 replies on “Leading the world in renewables”

You’d wonder if a floating wind turbine with a floating tidal turbine underneath wouldn’t be an efficient mechanism – two forms of power, one energy grid…

I suppose we will have to provide each of our Industrial users with a tidal handbook !
I remember a starry eyed energy meeting a few years ago where the Government gave future projections for renewable energy use.

Not one journalist questioned the stats as they were based on unproven technology.
How can you have had confident predictions when you were basing these on unproven technology with variable energy utilization.
Our wind / gas / hot air energy plan is guarrenteed to deindustrialise this country.

@ hoganmahew

Interesting idea, but an engineer friend of mine tells me that a major issue with tidal is that the rigs keep disappearing in storms. With that in mind, there may be an advantage to spreading the risk…

Does anyone know if the floating turbines are very mobile? Could be handy no?

The turbines can float anywhere, but the grid connection does not.

The advantage of floating devices is that you don’t need a big tower rising from the bottom of the sea.

The true EROEI of renewables, when the fossil fuel backup, the relatively short lifespan, and the low quality of the energy produced, is taken into consideration, is extremely poor.
Our future does not lie in this modern version of Victorian engineering, but most certainly in Nuclear power generation.
Those who ignore this logic, such as us Irish, will end up impoverished, hungary and freezing in the dark.

So Scotland with 30+ years of engineering experience in the design and construction of off-shore structures [for oil and gas] is leading in the design and construction of off-shore structures [for tidal and wind]. Why is this surprising and what lesson should be inferred for Ireland?

My point exactly. The Irish can reasonably expect to win the Six Nations, but the World Cup is out of the question — and for the Dutch it is the other way around.

I guess the problem is that much of the governing class in Ireland is so remote from business that they just don’t know what it takes to build a successful company.

@ Richard

I hope you are not suggesting that Eamon Ryan is not commercially savvy. After all, he didi run a bicycle shop and made a lot of money out of it.

There is a lot of low hanging fruit in the transport energy area before we start going all Don Quixote.
I don’t want to do the peoples republic of cork routine but to hell with it, I will.
Cork had a dense network of train lines back in the last prosperous era(Edwardian) and a large part of the new developments are still concentrated around these narrow gauge towns.
Therefore it still has a nodal character of sorts and is more compact then the mess in Dublin -when or if the apartments and factories are filled in Cork city the pop density should rise substantially above what it was and therefore it could easily accommodate a heavy tram from passage west – cork centre to ballincollig chiefly along the river – some of the line is still intact for Gods sake.
As for that cretin Andrews well he created a mini depression in Bandon / Clonakilty because his warped republicism could not accept a British success story and scraped a viable light rail (Dart) system for a subsidy of 100 pounds.
This needs to be brought back for its tourist potential alone.
When this is done we can further develop the coach ford line with another luas
Development should not stop at the Pale and create nothing but mass concreate.
We can use the ideas of the edwardians to create a new congested districts board with a theme of partial energy independence hopefully free from catholic interference.

Ps – The west coast of Scotland has 3 heavy train lines terminating at Oban , Malliag and Kyle of Lochalash.
This is in extremely remote country although they do have ferry links to the islands from these terminus.
The tourist revenue from these lines is enormous and adds to the mystique of the Western Highlands.
Anybody who states that light rail lines in the southwest and near Cork are impractical because of a small subsidy needs a ambition check.

Besides we need to get over this failed belief that utilities need to be profitable – the banks should have thought us that lesson but I guess we are slow learners.
By definition utilities that extract a large profit run down capital.

@KC: ERoRI??? Now Keith, please do not spoil the party for these ‘new tech’ guys. My guess is that its not about energy at all, but about sucking an additional subsidy from the unfortunate taxpayer.

Have they ever tried a reduction in electricity use? No. Too straightforward. Too simple (only needs one functioning neuron). No need for subsidies – now there’s your answer.

Nice comment about the railways. That’s the only way to proceed. We also need to encourage (with subsidies of course!) a change of population from east to south.

Ambition check! Lovely! Problem with nuclear is its fuel – and the waste of course. Should have been done 40 years ago. Money costs would ‘overrun’ by billions!!

Presumably you are watching the declining production in crude and the simultaneous increase in domestic use by the producers themselves. Interesting times ahead on the oil front.

B Peter

@ Keith Cunneen

“As for that cretin Andrews well he created a mini depression in Bandon / Clonakilty because his warped republicism could not accept a British success story and scraped a viable light rail (Dart) system for a subsidy of 100 pounds.”

Some economists who get confused by cause and effect, may argue the opposite regarding the impact of the closure of the line.

In 1966, Forty years’s after the closure of Allman’s Distillery, the Sunbeam Wolsey garment factory became the first significant industrial plant to open.

There had been a mini-depression in progress for a decade at least, before the line was closed in 1962.

Have they ever tried a reduction in electricity use? No. Too straightforward. Too simple (only needs one functioning neuron). No need for subsidies – now there’s your answer.

The measures needed to obtain “reduction in electricity use” from the domestic sector, at least, would likely produce more outraged squawking from certain quarters than even the subsidies. There’s attempted straddling of two horses going on.

@Brian Woods
If we had a competent goverment they could do a deal with the French regarding defaulting on private debts to their banks and increasing sov debt in exchange for buying a reactor or two – the french are familiar with such deals.


@Micheal Hennigan
Maybe you are right regarding the 1950s – but all of Ireland was in deep trouble back then.
Beginning from the late 60s there was extra money in Cork – some of this was spent on leisure and therefore some of these people could have provided revenue for the line.
By the 90s the line could have been electrified all the way to Bantry – this would have sustained a nodal form of development rather then the increasing linear development characterized from the 70s onwards.
Bandon could have become a important light industrial satellite town of Cork.
The core of my argument is that we need to get away from the cars and houses domestic economy of old – this finance was provided by banks while a very conservative fiscal policey restrained the use of taxpayers money which was filled by monetory means.
The Banks are broken now and besides we have the houses and only now need them as savings banks and providing credit to small business.
The expansion now needs to come from Goverment that is willing to persue a French style fiscal policey.

Why don’t we just build with hemp to make lighter and stronger products. This would save energy and it is avaible now. The truth is that the few have made so much money on over charging and over taxing energy that nothing available has been made new.

These turbines are a joke. There is other technology that is far more practical and cheaper….sshheeesh

“The expansion now needs to come from Goverment that is willing to persue a French style fiscal policey.”

LOL… your kidding? right? Every problem Ireland has had has been because of “government” expanding something or another. Don’t call the state government because laws of the land do not apply to them.

Expansion will come from families with common bonds coming together and producing, growing, creating, inventing, making, discovering,… Every great nation has started this way.

basically you are stating that we can’t govern ourselves – which maybe true.
But most of the expansion since the late 80s has been of a monetory nature not fiscal.
A large amount of goverment and European structural money has gone directly into the hands of CRH shareholders and others for sure but we can do good work with limited means if we put our minds and shoulders to the wheel
The Ardnacrusha project was accomplished with foreign technical expertise and Irish labour when the country was in a dire state and although I criticised Todd Andrews previously he did Trojan work at Bord na Mona.
We will have to confront the Brussels beaucracey however as I believe they have a clandestine policey of deindustrialisation in this country via their liberlisation policies with regard to the ESB.
This was our champion state run vehicle that increased our countrys capital base but unfortunately this company has been gutted and been under sustained attack by people who chiefly get their income via the FIRE sector which depends on capital reduction for its revenue.
Their attack on engineers and other vital professions is illogical as these are the vanguard of a Industrial society and need to be well paid – beside these utilities typically have a low ratio of labour costs to capital costs.
All I get now instead of investment is verbal diarrhoea over the phone from some automated Dublin girl who wants me to switch from ESB to Bord Gas for ‘cost savings’.
They cannot increase productivity by splitting up a natural monopoly and can only reduce cost via lower wages which feeds into this countries lower consumption and savings rate now that the credit money engine is banjaxed.

“The giant AK1000 turbine has an 18 metre rotor diameter, weighs 130 tonnes and stands 22.5 metres high. It is capable of dispatching 1MW of predictable power at a water velocity of 2.65m/s.”

130t for 1MW ! crazy & completely unsustainable ! no mention of capacity factors !

Page 140 of the Government’s recently published “National Renewable Energy Action Plan” estimates 500MW of this crap could be installed on our grid by 2020.

You are bang on the button about theoretical max vs average capacity – also what the green free energy mantra fail to convey in their propaganda is that these are diffuse energy sourses and require very large amounts of capital to extract.
Nuclear while also capital intensive is also also a compact energy resourse and when you count the energy produced per euro is much less capital intensive.

“130t for 1MW ! crazy & completely unsustainable ! no mention of capacity factors ! ”

What’s the tonnage per MW for CCGT anyone?

We need comparison to judge if it is crazy. I don’t have the answer but someone out there must.

For those who wonder about tonnage per MW for Nuclear Turbine Generators see http://www.power-technology.com/projects/civaux/

“GEC Alsthom NV won the contract to supply 1,500MW Arabelle turbine generators for the Civaux nuclear power station and they were built at the GEC Alsthom facility in Belfort, France. The Arabelle turbines for the N4 series are immense: the length of each unit is 51.2m, the width 12.8m, and the weight 2,810t.”

We’re moving backwards with wind & tidal not forward.

From the recent Joint Committe on Climate Change & Energy Security (http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=CLJ20100609.xml&Ex=All) The CEO of Eirgird stated …
“We have indicated that we are on track for 15% this year, which was a target in itself. The wind generation capacity will exist for that 15% this year. On a slight word of caution, this year to date has been a very poor wind year and developers have told us with regard to their cash flow that the weather has been much less windy than in many previous years. This year in particular will be a low wind year unless it picks up in the second half of the year.”

It’s time to wake up to this nonsense.


“It’s time to wake up to this nonsense.”


Mis-guided policy has created a powerful vested interest and associated public relations lobby.

It is very difficult for most people to wake up.

“The Siemens SCCS-800H 340MW CCGT Unit is 440t.”

Thanks Tecumseh but that’s only the turbine weight. The tidal turbine looks like it’s a complete package except for maybe voltage convertion and transformer.

For a CCGT to work it needs heat recovery boiler and all the ancillary equipment, buildings, steel work, concrete, primary fuel supply installation, secondary fuel tanks, water treatment plant, other civil engineering work etc to get the electricty out the door. Add all of this into the mix and I’m not sure which would have the lowest weight to capacity ratio even taking capacity factors into account.

Figures anyone?

@BigEnd, Tecumseh
You may want to consider that energy conversion is different for tidal and themal — think momentum — and that mass over output is a meaningless way to compare the two.


Comparing mass over output is perhaps meaningless but the data was requested.

Do you believe that this tidal technology is a sustainable method for future power generation ?

I don’t know too much about tidal. The main problem is that you run at capacity for four short periods a day, and below capacity the rest of the time.

Eleanor Denny looked at it in more detail. Here’s her abstract:
Concern over global climate change has led policy makers to accept the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This in turn has led to a large growth in clean renewable generation for electricity production. Much emphasis has been on wind generation as it is among the most advanced forms of renewable generation, however, its variable and relatively unpredictable nature result in increased challenges for electricity system operators. Tidal generation on the other hand is almost perfectly forecastable and as such may be a viable alternative to wind generation. This paper calculates the break-even capital cost for tidal generation on a real electricity system. An electricity market model is used to determine the impact of tidal generation on the operating schedules of the conventional units on the system and on the resulting cycling costs, emissions and fuel savings. It is found that for tidal generation to produce positive net benefits for the case study, the capital costs would have to be less than €510,000 per MW installed which is currently an unrealistically low capital cost. Thus, it is concluded that tidal generation is not a viable option for the case system at the present time.

Energy Policy, 2009, 37 (5), 1914-1924; http://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/enepol/v37y2009i5p1914-1924.html

@Richard, Tecumseh
Agreed that mass over capacity (or output if you take load factor into account) is not a very useful measure but it does give some indication of the amount of resources that are required for the installations that provide the energy service. I just thought that Tecumseh’s initial reaction needed some balance. It’s not at all obvious that it’s “crazy & completely unsustainable” without knowing what the comparable data are on conventional generation methods.

Lets not rush to judgement too quickly when comparing a prototype tidal unit with a CCGT etc.

So what if a CCGT weighs hundreds of tons, it just sits there on it’s concrete foundation, in addition when you fill the HRSG with water it weighs even more. Does it really mean anything? Not really.

As for a 130 Ton unit on the sea bed, well that’s a whole different kettle of fish. Lifting out a 130 T mass onto a sea barge is a serious job, not easy and not cheap. Suppose your tidal unit broke down in September, but no maintenance could be done until April as the weather + sea conditions were too rough.

If the design of the tidal unit is done correctly, then perhaps only part of the tidal unit will have to be lifted out, ie 25 Ton, but its still a big job, and would still require good weather. Its hard to cast judgement without seeing the engineering drawings.

The sea is a very corrosive environment, and water has an amazing ability to creep into every nook and cranny. Putting any form of electrical generator out at sea will require serious maintenance over its life time.

This adds to the cost of operation, for which the consumer will have to pay for. And even if you don’t use electrons from a renewable resource, you will still pay for them via Renewable obligation levey’s etc.


Thnaks for the link to Eleanor Denny’s paper. Has anyone done a cost benefit exercise on the 40% by 2020 renewables target?

Back to (Physics and engineering) basics please. Its ERoRI (nett free energy available for whatever use, after deducting ALL energy inputs (past, current and future).

Alternative (re-usable) energy production systems need copious amounts of fossil fuels as energy complements, and absent cheapish and easily available fuels the alternatives are a dead duck – in energy terms.

B Peter

EROEI [energy return on energy invested ] is the only way to properly evaluate the productive capacity of alternative energy systems.
The energy invested should include not only the obvious energy input in the materials of construction, transport and erection, but every other bit of energy associated with the whole enterprise, such as a portion of the lifestyle energy of every individual who worked on the project, as well as an amortised portion of the energy invested in every piece of machinery used in the project such as lathes, trucks, ships, cranes, diggers etc etc.
I don`t believe that comphrensive EROEI`s have yet been compiled of the products we use in everyday life, let alone ships, diggers, wind turbines etc, and I emphasize comphrensive, as I am aware of several fairly cursory excersises such as that put out by Vestas on their wind turbines—-self serving of course.
Without proper EROEI`s the relative merits of everything from electric cars to wind turbines will be argued about, without any true scientific basis to their degree of sustainability.

This has got to take the biscuit. Do I get this right, 40 workere in Lanesboro power station paid basically for doing nothing (this is what I read for “redeployed”) are now looking for overtime and bonuses for the same period.
Is their some mass insanity virus infecting the country. First the bank bosses – now what would have seemed to be ordinary workers are hit with the greed bug

Nice to see Eirgrid spending money on a facile advertising campaign. Quite who they are advertising to is a mystery, as they are a State monopoly

Ger, it is a public information, not advertising campaign. The level of public opposition to grid upgrades is costing a significant amount of money and efforts made to help the public understand the infrastructure changes that are necessary to keep their lights on is well justified.

Richard, what changes do you think could be made in order to promote first mover advantage, if any? Tighter patent laws? And would you not consider that Ireland is one of the countries with a natural advantage to invest in this area, given our weather and extensive Outer Continental Shelf?

To obtain advantage, first moved or not, you need to beat the competition. As Frank notes above, the Scots took the lead in offshore energy because they can draw on decades of experience with heavy engineering in hostile environments.

To Ireland, the question should be what unique skills and knowledge we have that we can usefully bring to bear on the coming revolution in energy. The combined experience of pharma and food processors may well be very relevant for advanced biofuels — but the ultimate test is the market, not the opinion of some bloke sitting in a Dublin office.

There are many elements to the wind industry, not least design, ICT, legal services as well as the installation and O&M.

I do believe we are well placed to capture many of the high-end jobs within the wind industry. Not only are these jobs better paid, they also tend to be the long-term jobs as construction jobs are obviously temporary.

@ Denis: I do not believe that ‘they’ are paying a blind bit of attention to the real predicament – there are no chemical substitutes for fossil fuels. None!

The misguided emphasis is on electricity, which is a ‘secondary’ energy resource: you have to produce (manufacture), which requires a variety of energy inputs! Will ‘they’ arrive at their epiphany the very hard way? Sure looks like it.

Brian P

@Brian Woods
“The misguided emphasis is on electricity, which is a ’secondary’ energy resource: you have to produce (manufacture), which requires a variety of energy inputs! Will ‘they’ arrive at their epiphany the very hard way? ”

Physics basics, energy cannot be produced or manufactured. Nor can it be created or destroyed. It can only be transformed from one form to another.

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