“We have more than enough to become energy independent,” contends author John Travers. In fact, he has carried out a feasibility study which shows that the available amount of renewable energy resources is “three times more than our current energy needs or our immediate future energy needs.”
Ireland can become a clean energy world leader by becoming one of the first countries to become energy independent using its own natural resources and by becoming a hub for the export of clean- tech that comes from our universities and clean-tech companies.
Travers states that “we have amazing wind, wave, solar and biomass resources on our doorstep” and that Ireland needs “the leadership and courage to tap into it.”
Ireland has the highest wind energy rates in the world, according to Travers. Its wind energy could produce 4-5 watts per square metre which translates into 6 million gigawatt hours of energy per year. However, not all this can be captured. Travers suggests that 380,000 gigawatt hours per year is feasibly possible. He calculates that, in order to generate 50 per cent of Ireland’s electricity from wind by 2020, 1,520 wind turbines would be needed. These would use up 0.5 per cent of Ireland’s landmass, which is equivalent to half of all GAA and school pitches.
While Ireland has some of the most powerful waves in the world, Travers doesn’t think that ocean energy will make a big contribution to energy independence in the short term.
He says: “The technology still hasn’t developed. It’s promising, but it’s not robust enough to be cost competitive.”
Travers focuses on liquid bio-fuels and solid biomass. He points out that 710,000 hectares of land (10 per cent) is covered in forestry. From that comes 500,000 tonnes of wood waste. Other waste streams that should be put to use in Ireland are: 700,000 tonnes municipal waste, 140,000 tonnes of meat and bone meal waste and 140,000 tonnes of bird litter.
He clarifies: “First generation biomass sources such as rapeseed and sugarcane can still make a good contribution; in fact only one per cent of the world’s total arable land is used for the production of biomass whether it’s used for food or fuel. There’s plenty of available land; it’s a question of managing.”
Travers’ advice to new energy companies is: “Try to ensure an early profitable income stream. Clean technologies take a lot of time to develop so don’t be swayed into a long-term investment profile until revenues are achieved.”
He concludes: “Ireland, more than any other country in the world is blessed with natural resources that we have an opportunity to harness and apply to become energy independent and we have great opportunity to demonstrate leadership to the rest of the world. How we apply our resources in harnessing those sources of energy will dictate whether we are a leader or a follower in the next 10 years.”