Come play on my grid, Ireland’s smart grid leading the world
Kathleen Barrington reports that Ireland’s Smart Grid will extend a welcome to innovators and policymakers who want to see what the future looks like.
If you are the guys running Ireland’s Smart Grid, some pretty interesting people want to meet you. People like Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a possible 2016 US Presidential candidate; people like Steven Chu, the Nobel prize winner and former US Energy Secretary; people like US Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and people like UK Business Secretary Vince Cable.
Some of the world’s top political brass take time out of their busy schedules to drop in to EirGrid’s offices in Dublin’s Ballsbridge to hear about Ireland’s Smart Grid. That’s because Ireland is the first country in the world to manage a power system where the grid can accept as much as 40 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources – mainly wind — while guaranteeing continuity of supply to customers. EirGrid Chief Executive Fintan Slye says that EirGrid has a target of being a world leading company in the smart grid area.
“The renewable targets across the island mean that the power system of Ireland and Northern Ireland will have one of the highest penetrations of variable renewable generation in the world. The integration of renewables and an expected increase in customer participation will increase the complexity of managing the power system and require an increase in the ‘smartness’ of the grid,’’ he says.
“The relatively small size of the power system together with the ambitious renewable targets means that Ireland and Northern Ireland are at the forefront of identifying and solving many of the challenges.”
“Ireland is globally the best in the world for Smart Grid infrastructure,’’ explains Michael Walsh, the Executive Director of the Future Grids division in EirGrid, the state-owned electric power transmission operator in Ireland. “We are first in something that matters.
We are first in the world to manage a national power system with 40 per cent renewables. Only Texas comes remotely near. We are a decade ahead of the UK and 20 years ahead of the rest of Europe,’’Walsh reveals.
It is true that Denmark has achieved 50 per cent wind, but that is because it is interconnected to a larger European grid, whereas Ireland has built a system which can take as much as 40 per cent energy from renewables on a single grid serving about 5 million people in the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Ireland and Northern Ireland have a unique opportunity in Smart Grid as the country’s rich wind energy resource has allowed it set a target of 40 per cent energy to come from renewable resources by 2020. The island is effectively a live laboratory of Smart Grid evolution.
“We have had to be innovative because we don’t have any compensating grids to avail of,’’ says Walsh. Walsh admits that many of the VIPs who drop in to EirGrid are there to check if what they are hearing about in theory is actually working in practice. “There is a lot of ‘will it really work?’ So that is why they come by here.’’