Thursday, 10 March 1983
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Flynn: asked the Minister for Industry and Energy if any worth-while results have been gained from the experiments with machines using wind-power as a means of generating electricity; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. Boland: Eleven wind generators have been erected under my Department's alternative energy demonstration programme. Four of these are the responsibility of the ESB and the remainder have been funded by my Department. Of these seven, two are connected to the ESB grid, one in Ballyferriter, County Kerry, and one on Iris Oirr. A further three machines generate electricity used for local heating and for glass-house crop production. The remaining two machines operate mechanically, one for heating purposes and one for water pumping.
There have been a number of teething problems with securing continuous operation of these machines as might be expected with demonstration projects involving new technology. The machines have been installed for a relatively short period and, in a number of cases, further time will have to be spent on dealing with mechanical and operational problems not yet fully sorted out. The broad objectives of the demonstration programme are to establish the potential for the useful harnessing of wind energy at different kinds of locations, to demonstrate specific uses to which this energy can be put and to  test the suitability of different designs of wind machine in Irish conditions.
The results available to date have not provided all the information and experience necessary to enable the foregoing questions to be adequately answered. I intend to proceed with the planned programme and I hope it will be possible, by the end of this year or early next, to publish in conjunction with the ESB a preliminary report on the results and the conclusions to be drawn.
Mr. Boland: I will read the list of the 11 projects to the House. On Iris Oirr there is a windmatic, a Danish machine, which is shut down at present. At Moore-park, one of the machines operated by an Foras Talúntais, there is a Jacobs American machine which was shut down recently. At Creagh there is a Dutch machine which I understand is in operation. At Ballinmore there is a Phoenix, an Irish machine, which is shut down and is undergoing repair. At Kinsealy there is an SJ machine, a Danish machine which is operating at present. Those machines are operated under the aegis of my Department. The machines being operated by the ESB are at Bellacorick, County Mayo, an Aerowatt French machine which is shut down because the control shed burned down due to a wiring fault. The machine at Miltown Malbay, a DAF Canadian machine, is shut down due to material failure. At Poulaphuca there is a Windmatic, a Danish machine, which is shut down due to hairline cracks in blades and at Portlaoise there is a Phoenix machine, an Irish machine which is not in operation and was never commissioned because of the liquidation of the supplier. There is a machine operating at Kinsealy but I understand that it is generating so little power as to be irrelevant.
Mr. Flynn: The Minister states that the machine at Bellacorick is shut down but let me be the first to inform him that it never started. Little did I expect to hear  that none of these stations is in operation. Is it not strange that these machines could have been erected at some considerable expense and then left idle without as much as ever having their blades turned and without anyone finding out if they could ever be put to use? Has the Minister information as to the expenditure that has been incurred on the erection of these 15 machines? Is he prepared to take steps to ensure that the ESB are genuine in their efforts to bring about some return for the expenditure involved and to have them set about bringing the machines into operation in the interests of helping the national resources?
Mr. Boland: The question of the expenditure was not the subject matter of the question as put down. I do not have that information in the brief but the Deputy may either table another question or wait until I have ascertained the information and communicated it to him. The information I have in relation to the machine at Bellacorick is that the control shed burned down as a result of a wiring fault but that it is being replaced. That was one of the ESB's installations.
Mr. Flynn: The Deputy has not pronounced correctly the name of the station. In effect, this windcharger which was erected at some considerable expense — it is regrettable that the Minister has not the figures for the 15 stations — has been in existence for some years now but has never generated any electricity. This suggests to me that the ESB are not serious in seeking alternative  sources of energy. I should like the Minister to state now that all the wind machines that have been shut down will be reactivated and that the little wiring faults will be corrected so that the use that was intended by a Minister in a previous Fianna Fáil administration to be made of the machines can be made. Is the Minister in a position to give a guarantee that the ESB will act honourably in relation to these wind machines?
Mr. Boland: I must agree with the Deputy that the performance of these machines to date has been disappointing. On the other hand, one must accept that with experimental machines of this nature there are bound to be quite a number of failures or teething problems in regard to their operation. I consider that both the Department and ESB were correct to purchase and instal a range of different types of these machines from the point of view of testing. There are interesting comparisons. It is a little early yet to say whether there are good prospects for the economic wind generating of electricity in Ireland. We appear to have an adequate amount of wind but the performance of the machines to date has been disappointing. It is worth noting that the largest machine erected by the Department, that is the one on Inis Oirr, has generated some 40,000 kilowatt hours and that is more than the combined output of the four ESB machines.
Mr. Boland: From that point of view perhaps the programme that has been under examination by the Department has produced greater results than the programme operated to date by the ESB. However, I can assure the House that it would be the intention of the Department of Industry and Energy to take whatever appropriate steps are available to them to encourage the ESB to pay greater attention to the potential of wind-generated electricity installations. In the list I read to the House I gave details of only nine stations whereas in one shape or form there are 11. There are two further  departmental machines: at the RTC in Sligo — this is operational — while there is a Dutch machine at Ballyferriter that has been operating since Tuesday last.
Mr. Flynn: ——so far as these machines are concerned. There is no prospect of any of them being of any use unless they are put into operation. Without wishing to sound flippant, perhaps the machine operating at Kinsealy should be given the full opportunity of being used as the prototype for the rest of the country because it seems that that area has a success rate over and above the success rate of the others.
Mr. Boland: The purpose of that machine is to heat nutrient fluid in the greenhouse. The note I have in regard to kilowatt hours produced to date by that machine shows merely a blank column and there is an explanatory note which suggests that the Kinsealy machine is producing so little power as to be irrelevant.
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