Business Irish

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Norwegian energy giant spurned €1.5bn Irish pumped hydro power plan

The pumped hydro-power storage scheme involved using excess or off-peak wind power, such as when the wind energy blows at night, to pump seawater into a reservoir in a flooded coastal valley that would be dammed at the end closest to the sea. Photo: PA
The pumped hydro-power storage scheme involved using excess or off-peak wind power, such as when the wind energy blows at night, to pump seawater into a reservoir in a flooded coastal valley that would be dammed at the end closest to the sea. Photo: PA

John Reynolds

Statkraft, a €5bn Norwegian energy giant, spurned an opportunity to invest in a €1.5bn pumped hydro power storage scheme in the west of Ireland in 2013, the Sunday Independent has learned.

The information emerged in light of interest from Norway's state oil and gas giant, Statoil - which owns the Corrib gas field and has six exploration blocks off the south-west coast - in developing floating wind farms off the west coast.

The pumped hydro-power storage scheme involved using excess or off-peak wind power, such as when the wind energy blows at night, to pump seawater into a reservoir in a flooded coastal valley that would be dammed at the end closest to the sea.

The water could then be released to flow down to the sea during peak times to turn large turbines in order to generate electricity.

A spokesman for Statkraft said: "I can confirm that in the spring of 2013 we received information about the project and that we did some calculations around it.

"Based on an evaluation of a number of aspects, we didn't express further interest in investing in the project, but showed continued interest in the trading and market aspects of it." Oslo-based, Norwegian state-owned Statkraft has annual revenues of €5bn and is the Nordic region's second largest power firm.

It generates hydro, wind, solar and gas power at 370 installations.

Industry sources added that a number of successful Irish entrepreneurs who were approached - including billionaire JP McManus - declined to invest in the hydro power storage project, which was known as 'The Spirit of Ireland'.

US investment bank Morgan Stanley was involved in the fundraising for it at one stage, the sources added. However, other investors also spurned the scheme, whose first phase would have cost €1.5bn. These are understood to have included another Scandinavian utility, and a number of unnamed sovereign wealth funds and global investment firms.

The Spirit of Ireland project was originally conceived by electrical engineer Graham O'Donnell and Igor Shvets, a professor of applied physics at Trinity College.

After a launch in 2009 and despite a team of architects, geologists, accountants, engineers and other experts working on it, the project never got off the ground and Mr O'Donnell stopped working on it several years later, it is understood.

Sunday Indo Business

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