Ireland to build 'giant' wind turbines to power UK homes

Peter Harte from Element Power explains why the 'bog' turbines will be taller

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UK and Irish ministers will today sign an agreement that could see some of the world's largest wind turbines built across the Irish midlands.

Stretching more than 600 feet (180 metres) in the air, the towers are set to generate energy for millions of UK homes from 2017.

The companies involved say the Irish power is a cheaper form of renewable than UK offshore wind.

But environmentalists have described the scheme as "crazy".

They say it risks damaging Ireland's landscape.

Under the plan, a number of companies are seeking to erect hundreds of wind turbines across the boggy midlands of Ireland. The power generated would be transferred to the UK via undersea cables that would join the grid at two points in Wales.

Map of wind speeds in Ireland

One of the developers, Element Power, says the plan would save UK consumers around £7bn over 15 years compared to other renewable sources.

The developers also say that thousands of jobs will be created in Ireland and the economy as a whole will benefit.

Wind Turbine Britain's difficulty could well be Ireland's opportunity as they look at trading wind power

But concerns are now growing that the turbines needed to provide the power will be of a size and scale not seen in Britain or Ireland before.

Because the bog lands are relatively windless, the company behind the scheme says they will need to stretch high into the sky to catch sufficient wind to generate power.

"They will be spread around 40 clusters in five counties," said Element Power's Peter Harte.

"We felt it was better to built slightly larger turbines but fewer of them and that's the best way to minimise the impact on the local area."

But opponents say that local people have not been consulted and few actually realise just what an impact the turbines will have on the landscape.

"People don't actually understand the scale of them," said Andrew Duncan, an auctioneer and spokesman for the Lakelands Wind Information group, who are opposed to the plan.

Wind turbine graphic

"Putting up the largest turbines in the world without consultation - I think it is ludicrous, to be honest."

Exploiting Ireland

Mr Duncan says that he believes that political opposition to wind energy in the UK is the real reason behind the plan.

"It seems to be an Irish solution to a British problem - politically they don't want turbines on the British countryside, they are under a lot of pressure from the general public over there and it seems they want to impose these wind farms on the Irish general public instead," he said.

Once the memorandum of understanding has been signed there will a further year of review before a potential treaty between the UK and the Irish Republic is signed.

Irish energy minister Pat Rabbitte said that the process was in its infancy and no decisions had been made about how the energy for export would be generated.

"I think there is a mutual interest here for both countries, he told BBC News, adding: "Ireland doesn't want a wind farm at every cross roads; we don't want that."

Richard Tol, professor of economics at University of Sussex, said he felt that the whole scheme was "crazy" and would not work in the long term .

"From an Irish perspective this is not selling the family silver; this is giving it away. There is no money staying in Ireland that I can see.

"But from the British perspective it is a good deal," he said.

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