The focus is offshore when it comes to renewable energy in Scotland, but the Scots figure that to really get the most out of the wind, waves and tides they’ll need to work closely with their brethren across the Irish Sea. That belief gave rise to ISLES, the Irish-Scottish Links on Energy Study, a European Union (EU) funded effort that is reporting that such a project would be challenging but could yield 16.4 gigawatts (GW) of power.
Just as importantly, the study found that by working to build the connection before the end of the current decade, the three partners – Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland – would not only drive growth in the renewables sector for Europe, but would spur job creation and new revenues at home as the partners benefit from connecting and exporting electricity.
“This project has EU-wide significance,” Scotland’s finance minister, John Swinney, said in a statement. “It shows Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland are leading the debate on how to deliver our offshore energy networks and we will now take these findings to both Westminster and Brussels. Connecting our transmissions networks is a challenging endeavor, but the rewards will be huge. It is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss.”
That “initial maximum resource potential estimate” for the ISLES zone includes 12.1 GW of offshore wind and 2.3 GW for wave and tidal power. To put that in perspective, according to the European Wind Energy Association [PDF], as of January 2011 the whole of Europe had just a shade under 3 GW of installed offshore wind capacity, with the expectation that between 1 and 1.5 GW would be installed this year.
A 25-page draft summary of the ISLES is available online [PDF].