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SEM Chart of the Week



The day after tomorrow: onshore wind capacity

Euan Killengray

The Irish transmission system operator, EirGrid, published its Tomorrow’s Energy Scenarios (TES) 2019 Report on 18 October. In this edition of SEM Chart of the Week, we explore how an increase in installed onshore wind capacity will affect the Irish electricity grid based on three credible 2040 pathways set out by EirGrid.

Not a science fiction disaster

The pathways outline Ireland’s clean energy transition with a specific focus on what this means for the electricity transmission system over the next 20 years. These are: Centralised Energy – a plan-led scenario in which Ireland achieves a low carbon future; Delayed Transition – a scenario in which decarbonisation progress is made, but the pace is not sufficient to meet climate objectives; and Coordinated Action – a scenario where sustainability is a core part of decision making.

Figure 1 integrates these different scenarios with what it means for onshore wind. Lines on the chart highlight the installed capacity in megavolt’s (MV) of Irish onshore wind.

The anticipated storm surges

EirGrid’s pathways all assume an uptick in the rate of installed capacity until 2030, where it then begins to reduce as installations of other renewables (solar, offshore wind, etc.) increase. EirGrid tells us that over 2.5 GW of onshore wind generation has been installed in Ireland over the past decade, and that it remains a highly cost competitive generation source. The Coordinated Action scenario integrates the highest amount of onshore wind into future mixes, with 8.2 GW connected by 2030.

Even though a greener mix is welcomed, it is difficult to be precise on how much onshore wind will connect directly to the transmission system. EirGrid assumes that new onshore wind connections to the transmission network will remain high across all scenarios. However, the decentralised scenario Coordinated Action, experiences a high growth in distributed connections and microgeneration.

Hoping for the coming global superstorm

Not connecting to the transmission network may allow for a smarter grid if integrated sufficiently. These microgeneration and distributed assets can be accompanied by battery storage and coupled with other sectors, such as electric vehicles, allowing for a flexible system and reducing the impacts of weather-dependent intermittency. Growth in onshore wind and other renewables is expected, this will raise questions for EirGrid and the transmission system.

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