Spirit of Ireland

Spirit of Ireland looks very nifty.

It’s extremely simple — a group of Irish ‘entrepreneurs, engineers, academics, architects and legal and financial experts’ are calling for Ireland to achieve energy independence and become a net exporter of green energy within five years, by building a number of wind farms on our western seaboard, buffering the generated energy in water reservoirs using pumped-storage hydroelectricity.

This kind of massive-scale public-works engineering project has a strong historical precedent in Ireland — Ardnacrusha, opened in 1929, was the largest hydroelectric station in the world for a time. Given that Turlough Hill is a pumped-storage facility, it can even be beautiful ;)

We can certainly do it, given sufficient government vision. I’d love to see it happen. Great stuff!

(image credit: CC-licensed image from Ganders on Flickr. thanks!)

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  1. Posted May 12, 2009 at 10:29 | Permalink

    This is a great idea, I’m not convinced there is enough government vision right now, but it’d make a great election issue.

  2. Posted May 12, 2009 at 10:49 | Permalink

    Damien points to a post here that suggests the company behind it might be a bit lacking in the tech knowledge department.

  3. Posted May 12, 2009 at 11:09 | Permalink

    good post from Treasa, thanks Adam. I’d like to read their response….

  4. Posted May 12, 2009 at 11:31 | Permalink

    btw she omitted to mention this member of their team — http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2008/1203/1228234992689.html

  5. Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:54 | Permalink

    Actually I thought I’d already mentioned him. He’s the leader of the Cleaner Energy group in TCD Physics which so far is good, but his previous record is all in nano technology. Neither of his two spin off companies are in a relevant area, from what I can see, however.

  6. Posted May 12, 2009 at 13:26 | Permalink

    hi Treasa. ah, I hadn’t seen your previous post — sorry about that.

  7. Posted May 13, 2009 at 00:23 | Permalink

    I checked their numbers [ http://www.sliabh.net/?p=1632 ] and at least some of them are BS. It would require wind farms covering over 3.5% of the country (an area greater than all of County Limerick) rather than the 1% they have quoted.

    The scale of the project is beyond colossal when you consider that only 1.9% of the country is “artifical” today. We would have to build on over 10% of all land in the 5 big western seaboard counties, permanently destroying the scenery out there (as well as much of the tourist industry).

  8. Posted May 13, 2009 at 00:46 | Permalink

    Finally, an excuse to level Limerick!

    (Sorry, cheap shot. :))

  9. Posted May 13, 2009 at 20:13 | Permalink

    One other thing dahamsta – I’m not sure that this is anything even as formal as a company yet. I suppose I could do more looking but I am not sure I have the time.

    As for their tech knowledge, you’d have to assume that in the international consultancy they have done there would be some. I would be interested to know who was involved there also. I imagine at some stage, that information will be made available.

    For me, the issue is that currently, the project as described and the team as described do not quite match up; therefore I would like more information.

  10. Posted May 15, 2009 at 00:11 | Permalink

    Apologies, an assumption on my part.

  11. Posted May 16, 2009 at 20:26 | Permalink

    Good blog Justin – sorry I’m just spotting it now. You’ve captured the essence of the proposal well.

    As Treasa hinted – Spirit of Ireland is not a company at all. It is a name for a voluntary project group of specialist professionals (including electrical engineers, applied physics academics, environmental specialists, legal people etc.) who researched together and gradually grew over the last 6 months to try to get this concept off the ground. Even the website, video etc. were produced free by professionals in web design and media companies. This all may seem a little strange on first glance – but history records that large numbers of great enterprises were started with far less people power and resources than this! Ultimately through Irish people’s input and agreement we can arrive at energy independence for our nation. The new type energy company which will hopefully emerge from this process is envisaged to have 100% ownership by people of Ireland. I have to assume that most of us would prefer not to have foreign companies as investors and taking rewards outside our country.

    I can promise you that this plan is technically and commercially utterly sound. Costing inputs were provided by a range of reputable construction and engineering companies. All the variable design options of how much we put in and get out of this are well understood. Actually the engineering is all very standard in terms of generation, pumping and dam creation facilities. Systems employed will be all “off the shelf” tried and trusted technology. We hope over the coming weeks and months to convince and gain the enthusiasm of the Irish people of the viability and the massive benefits. All relevant government bodies and their specialists are actively being engaged for their validation and support – which so far has been most encouraging. The only thing which will stop this working for Ireland is negative thinking. The local communities around Ireland will have much to gain from understanding and engaging in the initiative. Even without this proposal communities have been anxiously trying to develop and build more and more wind farms.

    Any eventual success of this will be your success. Please regularly study the website main headings as updates on the Questions and Forum section develop. I realise there is an appetite for more and more information…please be patient as we endeavour to provide it.

    I hope that as Irish Bloggers learn more and begin to trust the concept that they will continue to spread news so that enough momentum develops to achieve a good result for our nation. Maybe some of you or your friends could even help in some way as volunteers – as I’ve been doing. If so there is a feedback form on the website for this.

    John Cowley – part time volunteer for Spirit of Ireland

  12. garrycurrid
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 12:23 | Permalink

    Hi You must get this idea of the ground and show how positive you can be, much respect Garry.

  13. Posted May 17, 2009 at 14:55 | Permalink

    Nice to see someone responding John, but your comment is devoid of facts. Great ideas are great, but putting them into practice is another matter entirely, technically and politically. Please respond /technically/ to Seamus’ comment above, or on his blog; or if that’s not your field ask someone who can.

    Until people respond to criticism with technical details, people like me are going to leave this project in the “Steorn” category. You really don’t want to be lumped in with them.

    Thanks, adam

  14. Posted May 18, 2009 at 01:05 | Permalink

    Hi Dahamsta.

    Actually there is plenty of information and debate flying around on our forum at http://www.spiritofireland.org and the subject of land area is discussed and explained in good depth. There is much for you to learn daily and access to a range of experts. I’ll briefly comment below since you raised the question here. But ideally it would be best to concentrate detailed discussons centrally at the SoI web forum – that way more people will learn hopefully.

    The land area required for wind turbines is actually 700 square kilometres – less than 1/3 of what Seamus is claiming. This is still a large area but remember it is spread over wind farms dispersed around the country. Also there are only about 3 turbines per square kilometre (due to issues of efficiency of wind collection). In that square kilometre only a tiny proportion of the land is the footprint of the 3 turbine pillars. So much of the land itself can still be used for types agriculture if required. The plan would require about 2,500 turbines scattered in wind farms around the country. The area in question is much smaller than what is currently used by Coillte Teoranta for national forests.

    An SEI survey has shown very encouraging reactions by Irish people to the visuals of windmills on the landscape. Even more importantly – the same survey found that communities which already have windmills are quite favourably disposed to having more.

    Nobody is denying that 2500 windmills is a lot. But remember it would be growing towards that figure organically over quite a number of years. Also, wind turbines are getting better in generation efficiency – so even within 5 years we will almost certainly need less than today’s estimates. Furthermore – in the future wave and tidal energy capturing systems will be likely to be making commercially viable contributions (which are equally acceptable inputs to our reservoir storage plan as wind turbines). So our figure of adding 2500 turbines is a worst case estimate from today’s knowledge.

  15. Posted May 18, 2009 at 14:54 | Permalink

    Hi John,

    If you think my numbers are incorrect can you tell me where? They are based on the physics involved, and are close to the theoretical maximums achievable, so I will stand over my statement that you guys seem to be massively under-estimating the land requirements for this. Of course the SoI website has yet to provide any calculations on turbine/wind farm requirements, part from a 1% figure.

    As for the visual impact, I can imagine people will feel very differently about them when they hear there will be the equivalent of one every 400-500m in a strip from from Malin to Mizen and extending inland about 10km.

  16. Posted May 18, 2009 at 18:38 | Permalink


    While I appreciate your response, and your coming to Justin’s site to comment in the first place, you did come here to push your agenda, so I don’t think it unreasonable for people to push back at you here about the claims being made. I’ve visited the forum and it’s most interesting, but as the operator of community sites myself I know how easy it easy to steer converstations, and this is already happening on that forum to a degree, with some very selective answering.

    I’ll keep an eye on that forum, certainly, but right now I’m more concerned by the ongoing sparse technical details — here, there, everywhere. Ye either have technical people that have a solution or ye don’t, and if ye don’t ye need to stop making claims that ye have a solution. This is a technical problem by definition, the best will in the world isn’t going to make it just happen. A good start would be addressing Seamus directly, here or on his own blog. He’s obviously not a crank, and he seems to be concerned by the claims being made. If people like Seamus (and me) can be assuaged, well, that’s good for everyone.

    I’m not restricting myself to what I read on the web btw, for the record. I quickly quizzed a colleague of mine today, Jerry Sweeney of Chip eServices with whom I developed a “green” data centre in Cork, and who has had an interest in wind energy for many, many years. He hasn’t looked at the SOI figures in much detail, but he has looked at a similar solution himself in the past, and I hope he won’t mind me saying that he’s pretty sceptical. The location issue alone was a major bugbear for him. He didn’t seem to think we have the geography for it, to put is simply.


    (You do well to ban the “free energy” muppet from your forum while you have the chance btw, or you’ll find yourself infested.)

  17. Redwood
    Posted May 18, 2009 at 22:32 | Permalink


    What are the projected unit costs per kw/h for this electricity? How do these compare with existing fuels eg. Coal, Gas? Any notions on the cost of Nuclear?

    I have no idea of the answers to these questions but I know they are pivotal in determing whether or not this bold, ambitious venture should proceed.

    If the electricity being produced is more expensive than existing sources, public opinion of turbines on the land and seascapes may change.

    ps. The website wants this to be the whole people’s decision but questions I asked some days ago on the official website have not been responded to.

  18. Alan m
    Posted May 20, 2009 at 21:06 | Permalink

    Hi, as someone who has looked closely at renewables, the proposed approach is brilliant and should reduce peak electricity prices, if their costs are good. The question of suitable wind sites is being answered today with more proposals than the grid can handle. Alan m

  19. Posted May 21, 2009 at 17:34 | Permalink

    Sorry for only getting back now to see follow ups here…been busy and traveling.

    For Seamus…

    Very briefly – the assumption Seamus made on wind speed of 7m/s is for 10m elevation. Our proposed Vesta V90 turbines used in modeling will be at a 105m height where average wind speed increases to almost 10m/s (we’ve a 100m height wind diagram on our http://www.spiritofireland.org website under Questions which should have been a clue for him!). For readers this may not seem a big difference in wind speed – but Seamus and I know as engineers that the power output on the MacKay formula is proportional to the cube of the wind speed! This is main reason why his land calculations are inflated more than three times.

    There will be a documents section on our website soon which should help in many detailed engineering and indeed economics questions.

    Best Regards


    Spirit of Ireland

  20. Posted May 26, 2009 at 14:52 | Permalink


    the wind diagram you referred to wasn’t visible (or any of the other images) around the time I looked at the Questions page.

    You are right that it is a cube relation, so there is a very significant power increase as the wind speed rises.

    A friend who is doing a Masters on wind power (and who is building some interesting models in FORTRAN to do the computations) is coming back to me with a good figure for average wind speed in Ireland.

    Watch this space, or watch at my site.

  21. Posted June 5, 2009 at 14:17 | Permalink

    Thanks for replying John.

    I’ll watch your blog with interest Seamus.