In Ireland there are various opportunities available for communities to be more self sufficient, in terms of their energy and water use. For a low carbon future, renewable energy is vital. Unlike traditional energy, renewable energy generation gets a wide range of people involved – for the benefit of themselves and their communities.
Environmentally friendly methods of energy are becoming more important and more desirable in recent years, due to already damaging effects of climate change on the environment. Sustainable methods of energy are high in demand. In challenging times it is important to explore opportunities for job creation and fuel cost savings while reducing significant levels of GHG emissions.
Ireland imports all of its oil and coal and 90% of its gas. This is increasing the vulnerability of energy security in the country. Currently Ireland is spending €6 billion per annum to pay for fossil fuel imports (2015). Achieving a low carbon economy requires developing renewable energy sources. The west of Ireland has large renewable energy potential in terms of developing wind farms, ocean energy and biomass energy.
Opportunities in the West Coast of Ireland
The west coast of Ireland is recognised as having some of the world’s greatest wind and wave resources. There is a number of existing renewable energy developments in the region, mainly wind farms, as well as a number of proposed developments. At present there are 7 wind farms operating throughout county Mayo. An additional 5 wind farms have been granted planning permission. In terms of looking at long term sustainable solutions, in addition to onshore wind, other renewable energies such as offshore wind, wave and tidal and biomass energy have great potential to contribute to generating vast amounts of energy. There are 2 small hydropower stations situated in the county (Mayo County Council, 2016). Microrenewables are becoming a resourceful way of creating electricity for both homes and commercial buildings. This is done through the application of solar energy, heat pumps, micro wind turbines and biomass technologies.
The west of Ireland has wave power levels among the highest in Europe. There is an average wave power of 76Kw off the west coast. Wave power is currently at an early stage in development. In the long term, wave energy has considerable potential. The Bioenergy sector has potential to expand. Advantages of biomass include the fact that it is widely abundant and can be grown on unused agricultural and marginal land. By replacing imported fossil fuels with Bioenergy, Ireland could increase its self sufficiency as well as adopting an energy alternative that will reduce GHG emissions. Bioenergy has great potential to promote sustainable rural development. It can be used as a fuel for transport or to produce heat and power. It can make an important contribution to the use of renewable energy in reducing climate change. It is very important that it is produced sustainably in order to bring about carbon savings and also to avoid any negative impacts to biodiversity and the environment. The western region of Ireland could develop a sustainable, renewable energy resource which could deliver over 10% of the regions heat by 2020 along with creating around 1,000 jobs (Western Development Commission, 2010).
With these potential opportunities in mind, Clár ICH, as part of the RECENT project, support communities to become more energy efficient. As part of this support we work with various organisations, including the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.