A High Energy Solution For Ireland  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The Times has an article from a Trinity College professor on making Ireland energy self sufficient using wind power and cliff top hydro storage on the west coast - Think tank: A high energy solution.

Ireland has to generate more than 95% of its energy from imported fossil fuels. This arises from our geographical and geological position as a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic Ocean, where fossils fuels could not accumulate to any great extent. But our location is a great asset in terms of power generation. Along with Scotland, Ireland is among the most favourable locations in Europe for wind-power generation.

It is estimated that we use about 24 billion kilowatts (kwh) of energy every year. So if you covered four regions of 12 square kilometres with wind turbines of a cumulative capacity of 12 megawatts (mw) per square kilometre, operating at 40% efficiency, you could provide all of Ireland’s electricity requirements.

This could be an attractive proposition for farmers in the west whose income base is under stress — they could earn additional income by allowing wind turbines to be located on their land. They could still farm the land with the turbines installed. Farmers in the west often think that their main asset is their land. In fact, it’s the wind that blows over it. ...

Whatever energy-generating source we use has to be able to deal with the massive fluctuation in demand during the day. There are peaks between 4pm and 9pm but overnight demand is relatively low.

Ireland has many high cliff areas, so my proposal would be to build vast reservoirs on top of these cliffs and use wind power to pump salt water to them from the ocean. These reservoirs can be thought of as energy-storage areas.

The principle is simple: during times of high-wind activity, turbines would provide the energy to pump the sea water from the ocean, thus filling the reservoirs. In times of peak-energy demand, the reservoirs could be emptied.

The sea water, which is heavier than fresh water, would travel down the connecting pipes, through turbines, thus generating energy.

If water was pumped to a height of 250 metres above sea level and stored in a 2km x 2km, 20 metre-deep reservoir, it could supply all of Ireland’s energy requirements. We can realistically break this down into 10 reservoirs, each measuring 700 by 700 metres and 20 metres deep — we have identified more than 20 possible locations for such reservoirs.

How realistic in purely economic terms is such a project? Well, Ireland requires 2,700 mws of power and in Bath County, Virginia, there is a 2,100 mw pumped/ storage system which cost $1.7 billion (€1.3 billion) to build. We probably do not need to build our reservoirs from scratch because of the unique Irish landscape. This would greatly reduce the construction costs.

The proposal could even be instrumental in helping Ireland out of recession. Consider the impact the Hoover Dam had on the American economy in the 1930s. Some 21,000 people worked on the project and today it is visited by 7m tourists a year. Building reservoirs would give much-needed employment to the construction industry and the resulting structures could add to tourism numbers in the west of Ireland.

Once we have demonstrated that we can achieve energy independence, it should be possible to turn our attention to developing Ireland as a net exporter of energy.


Great post GAV...

Common ignored energy storage source.

Hydraulic mass transfers could also be broadly applied to low yield Wind projects.

In the past, water was pumped with wind during ‘high yields’ into reservoirs. Then used later during ‘no wind’ periods (for farming reasons).

I see no reason this old tech could not be utilized to stabilize wind power.

'Low wind' periods pump water (while high wind still generates power) to high ground reservoirs for storage.

During ‘no wind’ heavy water reservoirs empty via hydro electric pumps and stabilize load.

While this may have freeze issues in Wisconsin were I live, this may not be an issues as much as a nice long term storage solution ;-)

Peak Thoughts?

GAV I cut off my last comment...

Just making a point that this is proven viable low tech that has been done since the 1800's or longer and should be utilized and further discussed to disseminate scale issues that plague the wind industry.

Again, nice to see a post on it.

Thanks Chris.

I like this concept - it takes advantage of local energy resource, the natural landscape and traditional techniques - so its a winner on all fronts.

This should be done as many places as it is practical to do it. Storing energy as water is a good solution for any intermittent source especially wind and solar. Recently it has also been shown that a wind generators on a grid covering the area of the EU, US, or even Australia might not even need storage.

Anonymous   says 11:18 PM

Just one thing to be careful of, that amount of water is very heavy. There is a risk that it could cause a landslide in which the reservoir + half the cliff face falls into the sea...

Another cheaper way of storing energy is in heating 1.8 million domestic hot water cylinders when the wind is blowing.

The water heating option is really an example of dynamic demand management, which gets us onto the whole "smart grids" discussion, which I'll eventually write a detailed post on.

Anonymous   says 2:03 AM

Great post,
how can we start ?

Anonymous   says 7:34 AM

Fergus; That is another way of doing it but I would venture to say not much cheaper. Instead of a single, centralized turbine and resevoir to maintain you will have many (exactly how many I wouldn't venture to guess). Additionally, I cannot imagine that the water in such a reservoir weighs any more than the earth and rock that it is likely to be replacing. I do think anything that works should be tried on some scale, just to see what can be made to work best.

Anonymous   says 2:32 AM

Marvellous idea. I wonder could one put a dam / weir across Killary harbour or Carlingford. That should 1)allow the tide to do some work, 2) stabilise the shore area against damaging tides 3) stabilse the whole area for fish farming.

They are actually going to do my storage idea.. sweeeeet!

"Canada has the potential to enable the storage of abundant wind power from the US in a giant hydro “battery” in Manitoba."


Good to see progress being made Chris :-)

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