The Spirit of Ireland 2.0

The Spirit of Ireland is back. A new glossy was distributed widely by email today. More than one-and-a-half year into the project, there is still no detailed plan, at least not in the public domain.

As before, SoI combines wind power with pumped hydro to create a stable supply of electricity. That would work. Unfortunately, wind power cannot compete without subsidies; and pumped hydro would further add to the costs. SoI is still silent on its cost estimates.

The latest plan is different from what we saw before. SoI aims to export most (all?) of the generated power. The idea is that Great Britain and the Continent are heading for a capacity crunch (likely in Great Britain, less likely elsewhere) and that Irish power would fill the gap. British electricity may well be very expensive around 2020, but it is unlikely that that will last very long. Gas-fired power stations can be built in a matter of years, and shale will keep down the price of gas.

I still fail to understand the business plan of SoI. I would be surprised if this is economically viable, but if others want to invest in it, that’s fine by me as long as they keep the taxpayer out of it. But if this is a commercial venture, then why send a glossy brochure to all and sundry? SoI apparently even visits schools. The glossy lists all sorts of social benefits, but no private ones. This strikes me as a plan to get subsidies.

UPDATE: Graham O’Donnell responds:

Hello Richard,

Thank you for your renewed interest in the project. In fairness to you and to others who have commented, the responsibility now rests with Spirit of Ireland to answer the questions you have raised.

Over the last two years, we have worked through every aspect of the project in great detail. While particular site-specific designs have not yet commenced, we have sufficient detailed costings across a number of locations to complete comprehensive business plans and financial projections. These show a robust technical, commercial and business model.

You were right about several things. Energy independence cannot be achieved in five years. It will take 5 to 6 years to build the first Hydro Storage Reservoir. Based on investor appetite, an additional location could commence approximately every two years thereafter. While be examined very many locations, 4 to 5 appear economically feasible. The smaller scale locations simply do not work.

Secondly, you are correct, it would not make economic sense to damage existing capital investments in thermal power stations. These make a valuable contribution to Ireland’s energy mix, security and exports. We need to optimise their use.

Our initial launch over 18 months ago, was a little flamboyant and in some respects very general, but the principles are sound.

First some basic facts about the project as it now:
1. No state subsidies are assumed to be received
2. Ireland’s energy needs are now being met. Any additional energy produced can be exported provided is done so on competitive terms.
3. Spirit of Ireland is not proposing to build wind farms. This was part of the original plan but there are sufficient number of wind farms in planning that a contracted approach is now the preferred route.
4. the cost of the Hydro Storage Reservoir is approximately 700 million Euro
5. another 700 million is required for substations and bulk power transmission
6. around 200 million is allocated to lower voltage networks
7. the business model is a mix of approximately 50% contracted wind and 50% power purchased from the Irish market at times of excess supply
8. unless required for reasons of security, relatively little power will be fed into the Irish system.
9. a separate capital and purchase envelope is being negotiated, to allow Irish wind farm developers to build additional wind resources. These would be owned by the developers.

About a year ago, following an enormous amount of detailed design, technical and financial analysis, the first draft business plan was produced. It was examined by financial groups in Dublin and London. We iterated this based on expert input, re-costed many aspects and built a succession of additional technical models. The results were very surprising indeed. The interaction between intermittent wind and large scale hydro storage is counterintuitive. Our initial technical models resembled the traditional pumped storage approach. By the time we had finished, a whole new methodology for the operation of storage with wind had evolved. This had very surprising and beneficial commercial results.

One significant mistake that some commentators made was that much energy would be wasted, because we pump all of the wind. This is not the case. In many normal circumstances, the wind simply passes the door. Energy is used only to keep the reservoir at levels sufficient to meet contracted demand.

The hydro storage reservoir produces revenue of between 600 and 800 million Euro per year for the average station. Larger ones produce proportionately more. Take away the costs of the purchased contracted wind power and a more than respectable profit is produced.

The financial assumptions do not include for receipt of the Irish Refit subsidy. Capital costs are kept low by building surface rather than tunneled hydro storage facilities. Framework agreements were negotiated with all the major wind turbine providers, such that significant discounts would apply where many turbines were purchased over a 2 to 3 year period. The keys to success are low capital costs, high wind capacity (33% assumed) and the ability to dispatch power at a time which achieves the highest commercial return.

With respect to ownership, our objective is that these assets are owned to the greatest extent possible by Irish people. The balance of investment can come from external sources. We cannot guarantee at this stage that the project will be funded. However, we can confirm that the level of interest internationally from very large sources of funds is extraordinary. Clearly they will only invest if the numbers and project risk work for them.

The greatest risk to the project is now perceived to be planning rather than technical or financial issues. There are no shortcuts to the planning or environmental processes. These have to be done by the book. It is our responsibility to ensure that we give this project the greatest possible chance of success by conducting a highly professional and consultative environmental and planning process. This has already started with able and generous direction and advice from government officials in Dublin and Brussels.

It is correct to say that wind on its own require subsidies. While wind is a free source of energy, it is not immediately dispatchable and therefore not predictably saleable to large buyers such as the UK power utilities. When combined with low cost storage in a symbiotic operation, wind can participate in any market on a predictable contractible – known price basis.

From a commercial perspective, every major UK power operator wants to buy dispatchable carbon free power. They will buy it from Ireland. They are all required by EU law that a minimum proportion of their generation output comes from renewable resources. The Italians and Germans, all face huge power shortages. The EU Energy Commissioner declared in a report of last month that Europe would need to spend up to EUR1 trillion to secure energy supplies. This Commission report is available on the web.

It is also correct to say that nobody knows the future price of gas. Some think it will follow the price of oil upwards, others that that link with oil will be broken. It is this very commercial uncertainty that means that large UK power buyers do not want to place all of their bets in gas power stations. The lights will not go out in the UK or anywhere else, but there is an extraordinary opportunity available to Ireland to export power to the almost unlimited British and EU market.

Our objectives are:
1. everyone recognise that Ireland has extraordinary wealth in terms of natural energy
2. create a coherent technical, commercial, legal and financial framework, which makes rapid large scale development of these resources possible
3. finalise business and investment plans, acceptable to international investors
4. create a structure which allows all current players to participate – private, semi state and community
5. to the greatest extent possible, ensure that the ownership and resulting profits return to the Irish people – in perpetuity

Some information on our website is out of date. It will be amended shortly.

We are in commercial negotiations with many parties and we cannot discuss all of the details of the project. However, within the constraints of time, we will try to answer any reasonable questions that people may have.

Kindest regards,

Graham O’Donnell

60 thoughts on “The Spirit of Ireland 2.0”

  1. @Richard, they do seem to have let slip that they want to spend €3.5bn on a pumped storage facility. It should be possible to infer something about the business plan from that. If they fund it commercially and operate without subsidies, presumably that means the facility needs net revenues of the order of €300m or €400m per annum to cover its cost of capital, plus something for operations, after paying the wind farm folks whatever the REFIT rate is for the electricity they take.

    Should be possible, with a reasonable assumption about its storage capacity and max output, to do a rough check on whether it can have any commercial reality to it.

  2. ‘ and shale will keep down the price of gas.’
    Its a bit early in the game Richard to suggest that Shale gas will provide the reserves the industry suggests. Early indications of production at several well sites (US) are not optimisitic, outside of the environmental concerns with hydrofracturing.
    When looking at energy solutions should we not be looking at EROI (Energy returned on energy invested) for comparsion purposes rather than the (arbituary) €/ Kwhr.

  3. I would suggest that their estimate of jobs associated with wind and ocean is out by at least two orders of magnitude. Maybe if they get people to dig the reservoirs with spoons, they might get close to those numbers.

  4. Two questions.

    (i) Don’t their revenue numbers mean that SOI could more than replace ALL of the energy consumption of the country? Am I missing a zero somewhere? If I apply an €80/bbl price to Ireland’s 2008 net energy imports (expressed in ktoe and multiplied by the toe/bbl conversion) then I get to a net energy import cost of ~8billion Euro each year. They’re showing that they can get that much energy easily!

    (ii) When they say “Wyatt” in their brochure, do they mean “Wyeth”?

    (iii) Is their ability to count and spell in doubt? Or is mine? (perfectly possible… been out for a pint)

  5. I know this is crazy talk but sometimes societies choose to allocate resources to meet strategic or social needs rather than merely generate the best return on investment (or have the least burden of taxation).

    Of course Spirit of Ireland may not be at all practical, it could have hidden environmental costs and its’ opportunity cost could well be too high in relation to other forms of power generation but most people do not accept that that the role of the state is restricted to the minimum possible to allow private enterprise to function. States that choose to promote nuclear power and other non fossil fuel power generation strategies have longer term costs and benefits in mind than the next ten years electricity bills, there are values to consider as well as costs.

    Also, 3.5 billion seems like small change when compared to other costs that the Irish state feels obliged to take on.

  6. Maples and Calder sits on SOI Team…. now isn’t this is good company? – Not! –

    Thank you for keeping a light on this Richard!

    I know one pretty famous economist, I am not at liberty to disclose his name here without his consent, who looked in detail at their numbers and proposals, and the bottom line was…. it does not add up!

  7. Fair dues to them for keeping the €3.5Bn pork-dream alive!

    Are they selling tickets for their IMF pitch?

  8. Many of the proponents of SoI have a lot more by way of commercial success stories in their back catalogues than the talking heads on here….. lets just wait and see shall we? I for one am willing to keep an open mind.

    I was struck by Eddie O’Connors position on the TV last night…. to paraphrase:

    “Nobody knows where the cost of gas will be in 10 years time but its promoted now because of relatively low capital costs. I know that the wind is still going to blow for free in 10 years time but no-one factors that in when assessing the high capital costs of installation”

  9. This is placebo politics. Give victims a psychological pill to suck on and see them heal!

    There are frighteningly many who do not understand that the current economic and financial crisis has got economic and financial roots. As a psychological response of coping with the problem, they reduce the crisis to something they can understand: a failure of nerve and optimism.

    The people who urge positivity in a deflating bust will probably prove as successful as those who urged caution in the inflating bubble. The Spirit of Ireland is therefore the mirror of those Maurice O’Connell-led Central Bank statements back in the late ’90s warning of the dangerous growth in credit and DUblin house prices.

  10. @Cormac Lucey

    Your last paragraph with a minor tweak could be taken for implying that, though unsuccessful, they’re right. Surely we should have listened to Maurice O’Connell, and by extension SOI.

    Personally, I think wave energy is the way to go. High end manufacturing for a massive market with real potential, but I’m sure Richard et al are against state investment in that area also!

  11. I met senior representatives from SoI late last year to discuss the technical aspects of this Hybrid Wind/Hydro Solution unfortunately there was nothing to discuss as they had no data just an idea.

    @Richard
    Regarding the “concept” of exporting to GB
    1. Does that mean (in theory) we will be exporting our subsidies to the UK ?
    2. Do they expect to be able to compete with French electricity producers in the GB market ?

  12. @Ronan
    In Eddie O’Connor’s defense, the Green Gold documentary was recorded a long time ago. The price of capital, and hence the price of wind, has gone up a bit since he spoke those words.

  13. I’ve touched on this before, but: putting aside all renewable-energy ambitions, what kind of electrical generation capacity (if any) could we build to profitably exploit Britain’s looming Huhne brownout?

  14. Since these folks seem keen to secure public support for their concept, they should at least provide the public with a reasonably comprehensive economic and financial analysis that would include the underlying assumptions and resulting projections. Until then I suggest we give them no further air-time.

  15. Hello Richard,

    Thank you for your renewed interest in the project. In fairness to you and to others who have commented, the responsibility now rests with Spirit of Ireland to answer the questions you have raised.

    Over the last two years, we have worked through every aspect of the project in great detail. While particular site-specific designs have not yet commenced, we have sufficient detailed costings across a number of locations to complete comprehensive business plans and financial projections. These show a robust technical, commercial and business model.

    You were right about several things. Energy independence cannot be achieved in five years. It will take 5 to 6 years to build the first Hydro Storage Reservoir. Based on investor appetite, an additional location could commence approximately every two years thereafter. While be examined very many locations, 4 to 5 appear economically feasible. The smaller scale locations simply do not work.

    Secondly, you are correct, it would not make economic sense to damage existing capital investments in thermal power stations. These make a valuable contribution to Ireland’s energy mix, security and exports. We need to optimise their use.

    Our initial launch over 18 months ago, was a little flamboyant and in some respects very general, but the principles are sound.

    First some basic facts about the project as it now:
    1. No state subsidies are assumed to be received
    2. Ireland’s energy needs are now being met. Any additional energy produced can be exported provided is done so on competitive terms.
    3. Spirit of Ireland is not proposing to build wind farms. This was part of the original plan but there are sufficient number of wind farms in planning that a contracted approach is now the preferred route.
    4. the cost of the Hydro Storage Reservoir is approximately 700 million Euro
    5. another 700 million is required for substations and bulk power transmission
    6. around 200 million is allocated to lower voltage networks
    7. the business model is a mix of approximately 50% contracted wind and 50% power purchased from the Irish market at times of excess supply
    8. unless required for reasons of security, relatively little power will be fed into the Irish system.
    9. a separate capital and purchase envelope is being negotiated, to allow Irish wind farm developers to build additional wind resources. These would be owned by the developers.

    About a year ago, following an enormous amount of detailed design, technical and financial analysis, the first draft business plan was produced. It was examined by financial groups in Dublin and London. We iterated this based on expert input, re-costed many aspects and built a succession of additional technical models. The results were very surprising indeed. The interaction between intermittent wind and large scale hydro storage is counterintuitive. Our initial technical models resembled the traditional pumped storage approach. By the time we had finished, a whole new methodology for the operation of storage with wind had evolved. This had very surprising and beneficial commercial results.

    One significant mistake that some commentators made was that much energy would be wasted, because we pump all of the wind. This is not the case. In many normal circumstances, the wind simply passes the door. Energy is used only to keep the reservoir at levels sufficient to meet contracted demand.

    The hydro storage reservoir produces revenue of between 600 and 800 million Euro per year for the average station. Larger ones produce proportionately more. Take away the costs of the purchased contracted wind power and a more than respectable profit is produced.

    The financial assumptions do not include for receipt of the Irish Refit subsidy. Capital costs are kept low by building surface rather than tunneled hydro storage facilities. Framework agreements were negotiated with all the major wind turbine providers, such that significant discounts would apply where many turbines were purchased over a 2 to 3 year period. The keys to success are low capital costs, high wind capacity (33% assumed) and the ability to dispatch power at a time which achieves the highest commercial return.

    With respect to ownership, our objective is that these assets are owned to the greatest extent possible by Irish people. The balance of investment can come from external sources. We cannot guarantee at this stage that the project will be funded. However, we can confirm that the level of interest internationally from very large sources of funds is extraordinary. Clearly they will only invest if the numbers and project risk work for them.

    The greatest risk to the project is now perceived to be planning rather than technical or financial issues. There are no shortcuts to the planning or environmental processes. These have to be done by the book. It is our responsibility to ensure that we give this project the greatest possible chance of success by conducting a highly professional and consultative environmental and planning process. This has already started with able and generous direction and advice from government officials in Dublin and Brussels.

    It is correct to say that wind on its own require subsidies. While wind is a free source of energy, it is not immediately dispatchable and therefore not predictably saleable to large buyers such as the UK power utilities. When combined with low cost storage in a symbiotic operation, wind can participate in any market on a predictable contractible – known price basis.

    From a commercial perspective, every major UK power operator wants to buy dispatchable carbon free power. They will buy it from Ireland. They are all required by EU law that a minimum proportion of their generation output comes from renewable resources. The Italians and Germans, all face huge power shortages. The EU Energy Commissioner declared in a report of last month that Europe would need to spend up to EUR1 trillion to secure energy supplies. This Commission report is available on the web.

    It is also correct to say that nobody knows the future price of gas. Some think it will follow the price of oil upwards, others that that link with oil will be broken. It is this very commercial uncertainty that means that large UK power buyers do not want to place all of their bets in gas power stations. The lights will not go out in the UK or anywhere else, but there is an extraordinary opportunity available to Ireland to export power to the almost unlimited British and EU market.

    Our objectives are:
    1. everyone recognise that Ireland has extraordinary wealth in terms of natural energy
    2. create a coherent technical, commercial, legal and financial framework, which makes rapid large scale development of these resources possible
    3. finalise business and investment plans, acceptable to international investors
    4. create a structure which allows all current players to participate – private, semi state and community
    5. to the greatest extent possible, ensure that the ownership and resulting profits return to the Irish people – in perpetuity

    Some information on our website is out of date. It will be amended shortly.

    We are in commercial negotiations with many parties and we cannot discuss all of the details of the project. However, within the constraints of time, we will try to answer any reasonable questions that people may have.

    Kindest regards,

    Graham O’Donnell

  16. SoI are an excellent group who are at least trying to do something positive. I would however like to draw everyones attention to Nuclear Power. Thorium power stations are being designed and built around the world. The Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor could in the near future provide all the worlds power. Has anyone on this forum looked into this previously.

  17. @Edmund

    “A better name for wind farms is subsidy farms.”

    So what is your problem, Are there any other sorts of farms ? 😉

  18. Don’t underestimate these guys. They have highly connected people on their side, and if it wasn’t for the felix culpa of the economic crisis, then we would have already committed a ton of public money to this white elephant.

    But even worse than the likely losses from such a venture is the destruction of our landscape in this thougghtless manner. Flooding entire valleys -places where our ancestors lived their entire lives- to set up a giant storage system is a vandalisation of our country.

    What will happen when someone else discovers a better way of storing power?

  19. It is possible that the project will not get planning permission. If so the only loss will to early stage investors.

    The reservoir is approximately 2 km² in size. This is around one fifth of the size of the man-made Blessington reservoir.

    None are in proximity to freshwater sources.

    All EU and national environmental law must be complied with or no project .

    Sea water is not a listed hazard or pollutant in any country. The best environmental advice is that this is possible.

    Spain is already halfway through construction of such a project.

    Kind regards,

    Graham

  20. Spirit of Ireland hope to exploit weak environmental standards in Ireland and build a saltwater pumped storage facility to serve the UK market. Such a facility would never be permitted in the UK.

    The promoters would have us ignore the obvious environmental issues (habitats, groundwater) because it is “in the national interest”.

    Ignore reality “in the national interest”? Sounds all too familiar.

  21. @ GOD or G O’D

    Besides the subsidy aspect- the location will also be of concern and the nimby war that will go ahead.
    Could it be rossport II?

  22. @Richard,

    “There is one, crucial number: Zero subsidy.”

    OK, but how much subsidy will be required to provide the wind generation it requires?

  23. As much power as is required to the Irish market for security purposes, then export to the UK.

    No support from the state for the wind farms, as these are paid on all take, no curtailment, 20 year contracts. Back-to-back contracts with large power takeoff means they have financial security.

    No EU Irish and EU environmental approval — no project. End of story.

    NIMBY is certain everywhere. However, local communities must be part of the plan, fairly and transparently compensated or no project. End of story.

  24. Apologies. Just spotted this:

    “The financial assumptions do not include for receipt of the Irish Refit subsidy.”

    So, yes, I say good luck – but why the need for all the puffing and publicity? This is being described as a private sector merchant generating business exporting to the UK and mainland Europe. It needs to focus on the environmental, planning and safety aspects and on the people who may be affected directly by the facilities – and the transmission/distribution kit required – and leave the rest of us alone. And if it wants direct investment from members of the public it needs to put something more substantive in to the public domain.

  25. @Graham

    1. EUR700m to build a grid connection !!! It must be gold plated switchgear.

    “5. another 700 million is required for substations and bulk power transmission”

    2. No longer building wind farms. How do they propose to exclusively purchase wind power from existing and new wind farms ? Didn’t they need a separate collection network before ? Will SoI pay REFIT prices to wind developers ? (e.g. offshore wind farms EUR140/MWh !!!)

    Think about the network losses/congestion and costs – a windfarm in Wexford sends power to the reservoir in Donegal (via the Eirgrid network – this will incur a charge) – it then gets pumped to the reservoir (15-25% losses) – it then sends this over an imaginary interconnector (additional charge) to the UK where electricity is cheaper.

    @Richard
    “There is one, crucial number: Zero subsidy.

    As long as that is true, I wish the Spirit of Ireland the best of luck.”

    +1

  26. Paul, thanks. We have been working on all of the aspects of the project you described.

    Huge public interest from a very wide range of quarters. Opportunities for a very wide range of people and companies to participate.

    Assuming progress with major underwriters, a detailed prospectus will be issued in due course.

  27. Graham,

    Best of luck……

    its hilarious to see the pessimists on here without definitive proof one way or the other, berate optimists for having the gall to explore all the options with seasoned and receptive global capital providers.

    how very dare you sir ! you should know that academic economists who wouldnt know a hard hat from a baseball cap are the only credible arbiter of commercial success when it comes to game changing infrastructure projects……

  28. @G O’D,

    I look forward to the detailed prospectus. Until I get my hands on some numbers I am forced to suspend judgment; all I have at the moment are some concerns and a healthy dose of scepticism. The biggest concern I have is the possible unintended and costly consequences of bolting a project of this nature – irrespective of its potential stand-alone economic and financial viability – on to an electricity sector that is dysfunctional in almost every respect. However, I expect your major underwriters are aware of this – and of the uncertainty that surrounds the nature of the structural reforms that might emerge in a new government’s response to the independent assessment of the electricity and gas sectors it is committed to undertake by 2011 Q4 under the terms of the MOU with the Troika.

  29. I second ronan furlong’s point –

    If this is a truly subsidy-free venture and EU envi standards and planning permissions are complied with, why are all the begrudgers talking the idea down? Their naysayer-ism is sadly the true ‘spirit of Ireland’.

    I say – this is just the kind of private sector initiative Ireland needs to restore competitiveness.

    Good luck Mr O’Donnell.

  30. @LHE
    Pumped hydro is a proven technology to manage volatility in electricity supply and demand. Around the world, people use gas to manage volatility. Pumped hydro must cost more than gas so. Gas power is about 6 cents per kilowatthour.

    In Ireland, wind power costs about 8 cents per kilowatthour. Wind + pumped hydro costs at least 14 cents per kilowatthour — before transmission to Great Britain.

    The Brits can build coal for 4 cents or gas for 6 cents, and they can import French nuclear for 2-3 cents.

    I therefore will not invest my money in the Spirit of Ireland, and I will advise against investing taxpayers’ money. If they can get private funding, then I have no objection whatsoever. But how does a presentation in a primary school in Ireland help to get money from a Saudi prince?

  31. @Richard

    “Transmission” includes interconnection under sea. 700 mln is not a crazy number.”

    Where is the reference to interconnection ?

    The 500MW EWIC is costing EUR610m between Ireland and Wales.

    As far as I recall SoI were builing a 1GW plant – since this is now exclusively for export then we have the EWICx2 = EUR1220m

    If SoI can get a 400kV grid network connection and 1GW of interconnection to the UK for EUR700m then fair play to them !

  32. @Tim
    The French would not, but they could undercut anyone’s price.

    I have not look into the detail, but the East-West Interconnector is indeed at the expensive side.

  33. If the reservoirs are being built on the west coast, that is farther from most of mainland UK than most of the UK’s western seaboard. Could pumped-hydro be set up in North Wales/Scotland and therefore shut out Ireland?

    There are so many subsidies particularly in the energy area and these are often obsure. This is why there is some unease about the project.

  34. @ What goes up….

    Okay, point taken. Innovation is subject to fraud, because by its very nature it touches upon untried technologies and processes.

    This is factored into the pricing of risk capital and justifies the high returns venture capitalists sometimes make.

    Intuitively, I don’t think the idea of using hydro storage is as far flug as the idea perpetual motion, but what do I know?

    Am I willing to put my own money on the line? Frankly, no, I am not.

  35. The mechanical extraction of energy from wind, wave, and tide, probably cannot provide enough energy, equivalent to the fossil fuel used, to build, transport, install and maintain the machinery required in an economic energy return timeframe, especially when these forms of energy production require additional large amounts of fossil fuel to back them up, to make them dispatchable in any way.
    It would make more sense to use the embodied fossil fuel directly in a thermal power station to produce electricity, rather than wasting it trying to make the equivalent of perpetual motion machines.
    The fossil fuel itself would then be the storage system, obviating the need for expensive doubtfully practical storage reservoires.
    Stringent energy return on energy investment calculations [EROEI] should be performed, before embarking on feel good green energy production systems.
    Unfortunately, most engineers have never heard of this method of energy system evaluation, never mind the inept politicians who govern our lives.

  36. @Tim

    see section 1.2.3 from The Irish Academy of Engineering http://tinyurl.com/3af65cx it questions the high price for the interconnector and compares it to BritNed – one must assume that this report is gathering dust in the DCENR/Eirgrid/CER.

    “In July 2006, the Irish Government decided to construct an interconnector from Ireland to Great Britain. It would appear that this decision was taken without the benefit of a robust techno‐economic study or cost benefit analysis.”

    We have a poor track of seeking value for money in Ireland – the interconnector is another classic example.

    I’m still trying the figure out the SoI relaunch – I’m guessing they’re making a lot of noise in the run up to the General Election in the hope that one of the parties will run with it and raid the last remaining Euros in the NPRF once in office.

  37. “I’m still trying the figure out the SoI relaunch – I’m guessing they’re making a lot of noise in the run up to the General Election in the hope that one of the parties will run with it and raid the last remaining Euros in the NPRF once in office.”

    This is certainly the case. It’s about targeting scarce public money and/or subjugating the planning system.

    They should try placing a couple of billion euros of “spirit of ireland” bonds in the capital markets right now and see how they get on!

  38. I gather that when the Shannon Scheme was proposed and debated in the 1920’s there was alot of opposition and scorn (some from vested interest groups generating electricity by other means), but the project went ahead regardless. I believe that was one of the largest hydro power plants of its day and initially provided some 90% of Ireland’s electricity needs at the time, transforming the lives of many people. Maybe I am a bit naive or misinformed, but I thought that the oil on the planet is fast running out, even quicker once consumption per head in China and India starts to catch up with Europe and USA. The price of oil, and other polluting fossil fuels, is only going one way.

    As for nuclear fuel, that might give the human race a small window to ramp up renewable energy production, but as a long term solution is it really viable – is there an infinite supply of nuclear fuel – do we want to leave a legacy of nuclear waste for thousands of generations to deal with.

    I can see my ancestors looking back at our generation(s) and saying thanks a bunch for using every ounce of fossil fuel, polluting our environment and inducing floods and droughts into every corner of the plant. Oh and thanks for leaving us that pile of nuclear waste to boot…

    But like the university student who puts the assignment aside until the pressure is really one, humans as a group are, unfortunately, not inclined to act until they are backed into a corner and threatened with their very survival (or until someone tries to put a wind turbine or mobile phone mast in their vicinity). So be it, but I fear it will be too late to act then…

  39. @Tecumseh

    Thanks for that IAE link, I had made the connection myself though after hearing of the €600m cost and doing a bit of my own research. You can also compare it to Basslink in Australia and other similar projects and you will reach a similar conclusion. I had calculated the Moyle Interconnector operated at 37% load factor in 2007 & 2008 which is a lot higher than the 14% mentioned in the IAE report.

  40. As a leading U.S. developer of pumped storage projects designed specifically to support the integration of wind energy (including one seawater project), I suspect that SoI has discovered something that makes the combination more economical than one might otherwise think. You don’t need an equal amount of storage to match wind. Depending on the pattern of the wind, and if you have enough storage TIME in your reservoirs, you can match up a LARGER amount of wind with a SMALLER amount of storage – an incremental amount of pumped storage – and create a firm capacity product. And at least half the time, the wind isn’t going into storage; it’s going straight to the grid. The pumped storage plant, which can respond very quickly to changes in wind output, just shadows the wind, shaving off the peaks to limit demand on available transmission, and returning energy when wind is lower. You probably also need some non-wind energy to help maintain the reserves, but this use of off-peak, fossil fueled energy can actually help improve the efficiency of those plants. So there is an incremental cost to turning wind into a firm product with storage, but it isn’t a 1:1 increase in capital cost. – Matthew Shapiro, Gridflex Energy, LLC

  41. Thank you Matthew. You spotted it correctly. The flexible operational model means that the numbers become very attractive.

    There are at least five such facilities in planning in the EU and one in construction.

    As these plants have a very limited function, the amount of equipment can be minimise and the so too the capital costs.

    Kind regards,

    Graham.

  42. Great, Graham, renewed activity by SOI,
    Did the planning difficulties hold you up, as much as the current economic crisis
    Can’t understand why political voices have not taken up and promoted SOI as part of stimulation of economic package growth (as opposed to cut- backs, and a recession) they could and should have done. We have encountered nothing but excitement and enthusiasm from Sinn Fein spokespeople, though I would be more than critical that S.F. has not spoken out forthrightly on the subject, or made it a key central plank of their economic policy and platform.

    I am mad to contact Bridget. None of the numbers I have for her work. I have lost touch with her. Can you let me have her current number please?
    Would love to meet up again sometime.
    Rose Dugdale

  43. Looks like I was right – it’s another publicity stunt to mount pressure on the new government.

    Eddie Hobbs is fighting their corner/pleading their case in the Sindo … http://tinyurl.com/39z7njs

    “Secondly, a new way of producing large-scale energy such as that designed by the Spirit of Ireland organisation needs to be championed by the new government. That means Ireland creates the world’s largest natural energy reservoirs for intermittent power, showing the way forward for others to follow. If Ireland can come fast out of the blocks next year with a breathtaking new vision of instant, secure, price-stable, green electricity that promises foreign direct investors smoothed electricity prices built on one of our key natural resources, then industries reliant on high energy inputs will beat a path to our door.”

    What exactly are these guys looking for from the Government ? Subsidies ? Changes to Planning ? A Loan ?

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