Greenwire £6bn plan to import Irish wind power

The UK government is committed to to achieving 15% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020

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The UK government is considering plans to import wind power from Ireland to the National Grid via cables under the Irish Sea to north and west Wales.

Element Power said the Irish-based giant wind farms in its Greenwire plan could power three million UK homes.

It said the £6bn scheme could save consumers billions of pounds as it is cheaper than off shore wind generation.

The UK government is committed to to achieving 15% of its energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.

Element Power has told BBC Wales that its plan could provide up to 10% of that target.

Start Quote

This £6bn infrastructure project is going be (an) economic benefit for the UK, for Wales and for Ireland”

End Quote Mike O'Neill Element Power

In Wales, as in other parts of the UK, there have been large demonstrations and protests against the building of wind farms.

Greenwire is seen as a way of avoiding such confrontation in future.

Under the plan 40 wind farms, with a total of 700 wind turbines, would be based in the Bog of Allen in the midlands of Ireland. The electricity would then be sent under the Irish Sea.

'Minimal environmental impact'

The cables would resurface at two locations in Wales; one at Pentir near Caernarfon, and the other at Pembroke.

Map showing key locations in Greenwire plan

Element Power insist that, because both locations are near existing power stations, sub stations and pylons, the environmental impact would be minimal.

The project, would, however call for the building of two converter stations, which would be around the size of two football pitches each.

Mike O'Neill, president of Element Power, described the scheme as "a win-win situation".

"This is surplus wind to Ireland's requirements and this is a great export opportunity for Ireland," he said.

"It creates lots of jobs, lots of economic benefit, and for the UK... this provides 10% of the 2020 renewable energy target... and saves the UK consumer £7bn.

"So overall this £6bn infrastructure project is going be (an) economic benefit for the UK, for Wales and for Ireland."

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth said it did not oppose the scheme but called for the UK to develop its own renewable energy.

"This is a good project," said spokesman Guy Shrubsole.

But he added: "There's huge benefits that could come to the UK from properly developing our renewable resource, whether that's wave or tidal or offshore wind or onshore wind and the number of jobs that could be coming from that, the green economy that we could be building in the UK, not just having to import energy from overseas.

A Department of Energy and Climate Change spokesman told BBC Wales: "Further interconnection could open up real opportunities for the UK - to potentially lower prices, help with system balancing and enhance energy security."

"The government recently called for evidence on the costs and benefits associated with trading renewable energy - we will publish the government's response in due course."

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