Upgrades set to cut number of wind turbines
Ireland's older wind farms are coming due for refurbishment, with advances in technology meaning fewer turbines are necessary and the number of windmills on land could shrink, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA).
CEO David Connolly said that modern turbines put out much more power than older versions.
"The very first wind farm in Ireland is now 25 years old, so they'll start to look at whether it's sensible for them to have 20 old machines.
"I'd say two turbines will replace all of those... it hasn't happened just yet but it's definitely getting to that phase... even a turbine from only five years ago would probably be half the power of a turbine today."
He said eventually the number of wind turbines on land here could reduce, depending on the technology used.
Mr Connolly was speaking as IWEA launched a study it commissioned which puts the gross cost of wind energy at €3.3bn for Irish consumers in the period 2000-2020.
It said, however, that deploying wind will result in savings for consumers by reducing wholesale energy costs and avoiding even bigger fines for not meeting EU carbon-reduction targets.
On that basis it estimates that for the 20-year period, wind-energy deployment here will cost consumers just €1 per person per year.
Mr Connolly said that he expects offshore wind projects to come on stream here over the next 10 years, and that ultimately more of Ireland's wind energy could come from wind farms at sea.
"I can envisage where the largest part of wind will start to be delivered from offshore, because a single offshore wind farm is maybe 10 times bigger than a single onshore wind farm."
But he said this won't occur until the latter part of the next decade at the earliest, as further clarity is needed from the authorities in order for offshore wind farm projects to progress.
There is only one relatively small offshore wind farm that is operational here, and Mr Connolly said the industry is looking for clarity in order to get an offshore wind farm connected to the grid.
"There isn't a place for you to go to, so somebody needs to be assigned as the place you need to go to," he said.
Mr Connolly also said that the level of opposition to onshore wind appears to be falling.
"All the feedback we're getting from members is that it's going down. I would say there's an awful lot more of awareness of climate change, that is definitely helping.
"People are more conscious of what the purpose is of wind farms. As an industry we've become much more effective at engaging with people."
He said there's no shortage of wind capacity to meet sharp demand rises expected in coming years, as data centre projects and economic expansion generate more of an appetite for electricity.