National Grid UK has confirmed that a firm grid connection of 3,000MW has been awarded to global renewable energy developer, Element Power.

This is the first such dedicated connection offered to an Irish renewable energy exporter and enables Element Power to progress ‘Greenwire’ – a series of connected projects exporting wind power generated in the midlands of Ireland to the consumers in the UK via two independent subsea cables.

The UK faces a looming energy deficit due to dwindling North Sea gas reserves as well as ageing coal and nuclear power stations. As a solution, Greenwire could contribute 10TWh of clean electricity annually, representing ten percent of the 30,000MW of renewable generating capacity needed for the UK to meet its 2020 renewables targets.

Greenwire could save UK consumers £7bn over the project’s lifetime compared to sourcing the same energy from sea-based offshore wind farms. The projects would also result in the creation of an estimated 10,000 jobs during the development and construction phase, and 3,000 long term operational and manufacturing jobs in the UK and Ireland. In Wales the infrastructure built for Greenwire will boost economic development in the regions around the two connection points in Pentir and Pembroke.

Last month the UK energy minister, Charles Hendry and Irish energy minister, Pat Rabbitte agreed to prepare a formal Memorandum of Understanding on renewable energy trading between the two countries to be in place by the end of the year.

He said, “Optimising the natural renewable resource around our islands would benefit us all. As we face a future where we will be increasingly dependent on imported fossil fuels and understandable concerns about costs, it is absolutely sensible to look at how we can share the clean, green energy which our neighbours have in abundance.”

Julian Leslie, head of Electricity Customer Services at National Grid Transmission, commented, “National Grid is delighted to be signing this grid connection agreement for 3,000MW with Greenwire. This agreement will break new ground by connecting wind generation in Ireland directly to the UK transmission system. We are looking forward to working together with Element Power as we move forward with this unique piece of infrastructure.”

President and chief operating officer of the Element Power Group, Mike O’Neill said, “The Element Power team has a track record of delivering thousands of megawatts in projects across the globe. Element Power has been committed to Greenwire since its inception over two years ago. Accepting this firm connection date to deliver clean, green electricity before 2020 means we are ready to help the UK government reach its security of supply and renewable energy goals affordably with this market leading initiative.”

Element Power Ireland CEO, Tim Cowhig commented, “Greenwire is a particularly timely project which will enable the economy to harness our renewable energy resources to our economic advantage. The UK energy requirement has become Ireland’s opportunity, it makes perfect sense to capitalise on our geographic location and create an export industry. Greenwire is the enabling project that will allow this to happen boosting our national trade and generating considerable employment and benefit to the Midlands region.

“In anticipation of getting UK grid connection, the company has been working in Ireland over the past two years identifying potential wind farm sites, speaking with local authorities, working with environmental consultants and reaching agreements with land-owners. This is an important step in enabling the project and helping us to meet our target of exporting renewable energy to the UK by 2018. We also spent considerable effort identifying the best grid points in Wales, and we designed our project to match the capacity available. Our connections are not triggering any new overhead line reinforcements in the UK, and this gives us confidence that we can connect by 2018, in time to help the UK meet their 2020 targets.”