What can we do?
In order to replace fossil fuels, a mix of renewable energies will be required There is no one renewable energy which can provide 100% of our energy needs. It is important to work to identify the locations which are best suited for each type of renewable energy.
Ireland, being situated on the edge of the Atlantic, has a world class wind energy resource. Wind is a free and natural renewable resource and the cheapest form of renewable energy available to us. In 2015, wind energy produced over 21% of all of the electricity generated in Ireland. Unfortunately however wind does not blow 100% of the time and cannot provide 100% of Irelands renewable energy requirements.
The technology associated with solar energy has developed significantly in recent years and its costs have reduced. It is likely that Solar energy will have a role in providing renewable energy in the future however a limitation of solar energy is that sunlight hours are at their lowest during the winter months when the energy demand is at its greatest. Solar energy potential reduces as you move further away from the equator and at this latitude our solar resource is not comparable to that of wind.
Biomass is the planting and growing a crop (such as Willow) for the purpose of harvesting and burning to generate electricity. A positive aspect of this is that the crops planted for biomass act as a carbon sink whilst growing, locking up carbon in the process. This carbon is then released upon burning with the new crop again sequestering carbon. A limitation of biomass is the area required to produce electricity at volumes of scale and the volumes of fossil fuels that are burned during the planting, harvesting and transportation of the crop.
Hydroelectricity plants such as Ardnacrusha and Poulaphouca are well known and have provided renewable electricity to the Irish grid for decades. Due to the constraints associated with new hydroelectricity projects, it is unlikely that new locations will be identified where appropriate projects with the potential for significant output will be identified.
Ireland, being an island nation has a great resource in terms of the tidal and wave energy that surrounds the country. Research and development has been carried out in this area for some time however the development of technology with the ability to reliably harness this energy has not yet proven possible.
|Offshore Wind Energy||
Ireland has a good wind resource for offshore wind energy however building, maintaining and operating wind farms in the marine environment is not only extremely challenging but also expensive.
Countries such as Iceland are well placed to harvest this natural resource however Ireland does not have a geothermal resource which is capable of being used for the purposes of electricity generation
In certain circumstances gas which is emitted from landfill sites can be harnessed to create electricity. This form of renewable electricity currently provides electricity to the national gird and will likely form part of our renewables mix into the future. Despite the fact that electricity generated from landfill will be unlikely to supply a significant percentage of Irelands renewable electricity, it is a good example of how a positive approach can lead to inventive and creative outcomes.
Nuclear power although not a renewable resource does not require the burning of fossil fuels. Whilst England and some other European countries are considering or progressing nuclear programs, Ireland is extremely unlikely to venture down this path.