Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, famed for its lush green countryside. In fact, the name goes all the way back to William Drennan, the 18th-century Irish poet who was the first one to refer to Ireland as the Emerald Isle in his poem ‘When Erin First Rose’.
Now, Ireland is set to lay claim to the Emerald title once again. The Irish government has committed to an ambitious green energy program, with the goal of doubling energy from renewable sources by 2020. Once this goal is achieved, no less than 40% of the energy in Ireland will be derived from renewable sources. Wind power is expected to play a major part in this green energy strategy, as are wave power and bioenergy.
Airtricity has published new figures disclosing their method of energy generation and supply. In 2015, they used 100 per cent green energy sourced by SSE Airtricity to supply all of their customers. In 2016, that number remained the same. They managed to achieve this through 25 wind farms across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, supplying just over 300,000 people.
With 0 per cent dependancy on gas, coal, peat, oil and nuclear fuel, Airtricity is Ireland’s greenest energy supplier by some margin. With 100 per cent dependancy on renewable sources, they beat Ireland’s 41.1 per cent renewable energy source average by some margin, which is quite the achievement, and without doubt something SSE should be proud of.
The leading Irish green energy company
One of the companies that is likely to benefit from this focus on green energy is SSE Airtricity. The company, which operates in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, is building a reputation as Ireland’s largest green energy company, supplying over 800,000 commercial and domestic properties in the Republic of Ireland, and another 125,000 in Northern Ireland. Founded in 1997, the company is also Ireland’s fastest-growing energy supplier of any kind, and the second largest overall.
Over 725,000 tonnes of carbon emissions saved
SSE Airtricity has shown just how green energy can make a substantial contribution to reductions in carbon emissions. It offers two different electricity rates – one general tariff and one green tariff. The green tariff uses 100% renewable fuel sources – providing a completely green alternative for consumers who want to minimize their carbon footprint. The general tariff is also surprisingly environmentally friendly – just over 50% of the electricity provided under this tariff is generated from renewable resources. That’s already above the 2020 Irish target. The company also estimates that its green energy reduced Irish carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 725,000 tonnes in 2013.
Major investments in wind power
To achieve these goals, the company has invested heavily in wind energy, with over 500 MW of generation capacity coming from 25 wind farms across the island. No less than 84 MW of this power comes from Meentycat Wind Farm – located in County Donegal, this is one of the largest wind farms in Ireland. Overall, the company estimates that it has invested €2 billion in its green energy infrastructure – and say is that it has saved Irish consumers more than €80 million on their energy bills. It appears that green energy can be both environmentally responsible and economical.
Turning traditional generation green
However, the company hasn’t limited its environmental initiatives to wind power. It is also been aggressively upgrading its fossil-fuel-based electricity-generation capacity, switching from sources such as coal and peat to gas – a much cleaner fuel alternative. For example, it is currently constructing a 460 MW gas turbine plant in County Wexford, which is set to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of Ireland’s electricity generation industry.