ENERGY STORAGE

Ireland’s Call: Storage hits 1GW, but more support needed

Wider deployment of storage could save energy end consumers in Ireland up to €85m per year, but more needs to be done to develop storage supply chains, career paths and training

BEN COOK

May 1, 2024

  • Ireland now has 1GW of storage connected to the network, says ESB Networks
  • But wider deployment of storage could save end consumers in the republic up to €85m per year
  • More needs to be done to develop storage supply chains, career paths and training in Ireland

Irish electricity network infrastructure operator ESB Networks announced last week that the republic had reached a total of more than 1GW of energy storage connected to the network. The capacity includes 731.5 MW of battery storage projects and 292 MW from Turlough Hill pumped storage power station, which has been in operation for 50 years. ESB said that storage facilities are connected to both the transmission and distribution systems, which are managed by EirGrid and ESB. For the uninitiated, the main difference between transmission and distribution power lines is that transmission power lines are for long-distance, high-voltage electricity transportation, whereas distribution power lines are for shorter distances and lower voltage electricity transportation.

ESB said 1GW of storage is sufficient to power the equivalent of approximately 450,000 homes for one hour, typically during peaks in demand or when frequency support is needed at times of low levels of renewable generation. To put this in context, peak demand on Ireland’s electricity system is approximately 5.5 GW. Ireland’s habitable permanent housing stock totalled 2,112,121 in 2022 (see graph below), meaning the republic now has enough storage to power approximately 21 per cent of the nation’s homes.

Commenting on reaching the 1GW milestone, Eamon Ryan TD, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, said: “The growth in energy storage projects simply must continue for the benefit of all across society and the wider economy to allow us to effectively balance our new, homegrown supply of clean electricity.” The wider deployment of energy storage would offer a range of benefits to the Irish people, not least a net saving to end consumers in Ireland of up to €85 million per year (see below), according to Energy Storage Ireland (ESI), a representative association of public and private sector organisations who are interested and active in the development of energy storage in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Source: Energy Storage Ireland

However, deploying the amount of energy storage needed to maximise the benefits of such technology will not be easy. ESI said in a recent report that the energy storage sector requires “significant uplift to support delivery of the 2030 and 2050 electricity system targets, and to capture the potential of Ireland’s renewable energy resources”. By some measures, Ireland is going backward in terms of fulfilling the potential of its renewable energy resources. In 2020, a record was set in terms of the proportion of Ireland’s electricity demand that was met by renewables (37.5 per cent). Although wind and solar generation in 2023 in Ireland was 3 per cent higher than that in 2020, because demand is almost 8 per cent higher, solar and wind met 35.9 per cent of Irish electricity demand in 2023.

Another challenge highlighted by ESI is the need to identify and grow the appropriate new skills and expertise to “contribute to the development of a strong supply chain and workforce capable of growing the energy storage sector across the island of Ireland”. A survey conducted by ESI showed that construction or installation (chosen by 27 per cent of respondents), energy system integration (26 per cent), and operations & maintenance (18 per cent) were identified as the top three energy storage value chain segments that have the “greatest opportunities for job creation in Ireland over the next seven years” (see graphic below).

Source: Energy Storage Ireland

Yet fulfilling this potential for job creation in the Irish energy storage sector will be challenging. A key challenge identified by a majority (54 per cent) of respondents in the ESI survey was “insufficiently defined energy storage related career paths”. Other obstacles included “insufficient supply of energy storage focused training courses” (40 per cent) and ‘insufficient labour market interest in training or upskilling’ (40 per cent).

Source: Energy Storage Ireland

With a minimum of 2GW of energy storage needed in the republic by 2030 as it aims to reach net zero, a number of companies have stepped forward to answer Ireland’s call. In a recent interview with Tamarindo Finance Quarterly, Gore Street Energy Storage Fund CEO Alex O’Cinneide explained how the fund had diversified its portfolio with battery assets in the Irish market with impressive results. Gore Street’s Irish portfolio generated an average estimated revenue of £25.8/MW/hr during Q3 2023, by comparison the GB market delivered average estimated revenue of £6.1/MW/hr in the three months to the end of December 2023.

Meanwhile, Siemens Energy last year announced it will deliver the first-ever hybrid grid stabilisation and large-scale battery storage plant at Shannonbridge. The £85 million plant will include a 160MWh battery storage facility – the company said it would be the first time the two technologies have been combined into a single grid connection to stabilise the grid and make better use of renewable energy. Elsewhere, 2023 also saw Statkraft announce plans to build Ireland’s first four-hour grid-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) in Co. Offaly. The 20MW BESS, supplied by Fluence, will be co-located with Statkraft’s 55.8MW Cushaling Wind Farm. The wind project is currently under construction. The battery project will support EirGrid to ensure network stability by delivering fast-acting system services, a Statkraft statement said.

But this is only the start, with a minimum of 2GW of storage being needed in Ireland by 2030, the race is one to dramatically increase the deployment of storage in the republic. However, to reach this target, the nation needs to develop a stronger storage supply chain as well training courses and career paths for the storage workforce of the future.