IT is only 21 years ago since the first wind farm in Ireland opened for business.
Today, the Bellacorick farm in Co Mayo is still operating, producing 6.45MW of power through 21 turbines. The most efficient turbine makes 450KW of electricity a day when conditions are right – enough for about 500 homes.
By contrast, modern turbines can produce up to 3MW – meaning fewer are needed and there is less of a visual impact on the landscape.
The Irish wind energy industry has moved on in leaps and bounds over the past decade. From practically a standing start, there is now 161 wind farms across the country, capable of producing 1,755MW of power – almost twice the capacity of the coal-burning Moneypoint power station in Co Clare.
Some 133 are connected to the ESB electricity distribution system, because they produce 20MW or less a year. Another 28 larger farms are connected to the national grid.
Each megawatt (MW) of power is enough for about 1,000 homes, and with an EU target that 40pc of all our energy is produced from renewable resources by 2020, more are on the way.
Figures from national grid operator EirGrid and the ESB show that 25 large-scale projects will be connected to the grid by 2020, and another 74 to the ESB network.
But the farms won't be constructed without stiff local opposition in some places. While about 60pc of all projects are granted planning permission, locals are concerned about the visual impact the turbines have, along with fears about noise and health.