IRELAND'S wind-farm developers are preparing to spend €300m in 2013 on new wind-power generation, the Irish Independent has learned.
The 45pc hike should help Ireland make up ground on our fast slipping EU directive target of 40pc by 2020.
However, despite falling behind, Ireland still manages to finish in the top four out of 27 EU countries for wind-power generation, according to a Europe-wide report just published.
The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) estimates that wind power now comprises 13pc of all the energy used in Ireland – more than twice the EU average.
In 2012, we installed 124mw of capacity at nine new wind farms compared with a planned 180mw this year. Eirgrid believes that within seven years Ireland will have one of the highest penetrations of wind energy in the world.
Ireland's performance was beaten by just three countries: Denmark, the EU leader for wind-power penetration at 27pc; Portugal at 17pc; and Spain at 16pc. The figure sets us well ahead of many nations renowned for their environmental friendliness like Germany (11pc) as well as our nearest neighbours, the UK (6pc) and France (3pc).
But the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), which represents wind-farm developers, claims that the European report has erred by considerably underestimating Ireland's wind-energy penetration by at least 3pc because of the way the results have been calculated.
It claims that Irish turbines, which are more likely to be exposed to stronger Atlantic winds, actually generate far greater electricity output than those of our EU neighbours, which has not been taken into account in the just released report.
IWEA's claim is backed up by Eirgrid, whose most recent report estimates Irish wind-power penetration at 16pc rather than the 13pc outlined by EWEA, and would place us joint third with Spain.
Our 1,738 MW output also exceeds or matches in real terms those of countries with populations more than twice our size, such as Belgium, Austria and Greece. IWEA's chief operations officer Caitriona Diviney added: "Ireland does need to increase its installed capacity even further and connect up to about 300mw every year between now and 2020 to meet our renewable electricity target in that timeframe.
"IWEA believes this is certainly achievable given the unwavering cross-party political commitment and faith in the wind-energy sector to deliver jobs and economic benefits to Ireland."
Planning issues have also halted wind-farm development more than expected.
Last year, it emerged that €200m worth of wind farms, representing exactly half of all projects put into planning from 2010 to mid-2011, had been refused planning permission.
In addition, there have been ongoing issues with the Government, with IWEA members alleging that the Government had been dragging its feet on honouring tariff obligations previously made to wind-farm developers.