‘Growing industry concern’ as lost wind energy rises to nearly 11.5% of total production

Lost wind energy rose to nearly 11.5% of total production in 2020, according to Wind Energy Ireland’s annual report.

Despite strong results overall, there is “growing industry concern” over the amount of wind energy that is lost every year.

In 2020, the amount lost was more than 1.4 million MWh of electricity, nearly double the figure for 2019. This is just under 11.5% of total production and enough to power more than 300,000 homes.

Wind energy is lost when EirGrid, as the transmission system operator, instructs a wind farm to produce less electricity or even to shut down entirely because the grid is not strong enough to cope with the volumes of power being produced.

Need for a much stronger transmission system

Dr. David Connolly, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said these record levels of lost wind power are then replaced by fossil fuels.

“So, every time wind farms are turned off, our carbon emissions go up. As we develop more wind farms, particularly the large offshore projects that are in planning, we are going to need a much stronger transmission system,” he said.

“As a matter of urgency, we need to support EirGrid’s efforts to expand and strengthen our electricity grid. And this support needs to extend right across the political system and wider society if we are to have any hope of decarbonising our electricity supply.”

Number 1 in the world for share of electricity demand met by onshore

Ireland has confirmed its position as number one in the world for the share of electricity demand met by onshore wind.

In 2020, wind energy met a record 36.3% of Ireland’s electricity demand – the world’s highest for onshore wind. In Q1 of 2020 and again Q4 of 2020, wind energy provided more electricity than natural gas across a full quarter for the first time ever.

Last year, eight new wind farms were connected with a combined capacity of 135MW; and planning permission is confirmed for seven new wind farms with a capacity of 307MW.

“Irish wind energy is setting new records every year as it cuts our Co2 emissions, drives down the wholesale price of electricity and makes Ireland more energy independent,” Dr. Connolly said.

“At the start of 2020, we passed a significant milestone as wind outperformed gas across a full quarter for the first time ever and we did it again in the last three months of the year. Wind energy’s strong performance enabled Ireland to reach our 40% renewable electricity target.

Although there was a slowdown in the number of new projects connecting to the grid after a very busy 2019, the number of projects which got planning permission and the growing number applying today shows the strength of our pipeline.

“Last year also saw the first Renewable Electricity Support Scheme [RESS] auction and the signing of new Corporate Power Purchase Agreements [CPPAs]. This means we have more than 600MW of new wind farms going into construction.”

The total amount of electricity generated by wind in 2020 was 10,729,500MWh – up from 9,497,000MWh in 2019. To put this in context, the total electricity demand from an average family home in Ireland is 4.6MWh.

The total installed wind energy capacity at the end of 2020 was 4,255MW; and the amount of wind energy dispatched down in 2020 was 1,447,803MWh (11.4%), up from 710,591 (6.9%) in 2019.