Ireland has set itself an ambitious goal to produce 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020 while Northern Ireland is considering a similar goal. Wind power is expected to generate an increasing share of Irish power, with instantaneous penetration levels occasionally hitting 100%.
The studies, prepared for the Irish and Northern Irish transmission system operators Eirgrid and SONI, undertook the most comprehensive analysis of the island-wide power system yet taken. It assessed which penetration levels of wind power are technically feasible without upsetting the power balance of the system.
The study found that stability problems could be controlled with technical improvements if wind power reached up to 60% to 80% of the instantaneous power demand. But over and above this range, wind power would have to be temporarily curtailed to avoid compromising reliable electricity supply, it said.
The modelling exercises therefore confirmed that Ireland's All Island Power System could meet the 40% target. But the analysts suggested that the limitations imply challenges for the power system as well as regulation, which requires further analysis.
The EU's commitment to source 20% of its energy from renewables by 2020 has made grid integration a burning question. Better interconnected and intelligent grids and a broad mix of renewables have been identified as some of the main remedies (see EurActiv LinksDossier on 'Integrating renewables into the electricity grid').
"Investing in our own electricity grid, as well as in a North West European grid, will mean Ireland will be well placed to sell wind energy abroad. We have a comparable advantage, and I am determined that we capitalise on it," said Ireland's Energy Minister Eamon Ryan.