Why Wind? 

Ireland's unique position on the edge of the Atlantic offers us the opportunity to leverage the strength of the wind - along with other valuable natural resources - thereby restoring our energy independence.

Indeed, Ireland is a renewable energy leader, and we were recently recognised by the US based Earth Policy Institute as being fourth in the world for wind energy leadership, ahead of the US, UK and China.

Harnessing wind energy – along with other renewable resources – could end our reliance on imported fuels and restore our energy independence.

Irish wind energy is providing an emissions free, clean and renewable energy, which provided over a fifth of our electricity in 2015 alone. Through using Irish wind to 2020 we will avoid 21 million tonnes of polluting CO2 and 64 million tonnes by 2030.

How a Wind Farm is Constructed and Operated

Wind energy is produced in varying power due to the movement of air between an unevenly heated atmosphere and the irregular surface of the earth.

The power of wind lets it exert force, create movement, and transfer energy to elements within the environment. 

A wind turbine produces electricity by using the kinetic or moving energy of wind to create motion. When there is a satisfactory level of power in the wind it can exert a force, causing a the rotor to spin which when coupled to a generator converts the rotation into electricity.

A wind turbine operates on a simple principle: The wind turns the blades, spins a drive shaft, fed through a gearbox, delivers the motion required for a generation unit to produce electricity by using the motion to create a magnetic field and generate an electrical current.

The electricity produced is collected through underground cables that connect each turbine to a substation, where the power is transferred to the local power distribution network to be used by local homes and businesses, or enters the national power network where it is rerouted to areas of high electricity demand, such as: urban centres.

  • Wind energy releases no pollution into the air or water.
  • Wind energy is both renewable and sustainable. The wind will never run out, unlike the earth's fossil fuel reserves (such as oil and gas).
  • Adding wind power to the energy supply diversifies the national energy portfolio and reduces reliance on imported fuels.
  • Wind turbines have a relatively small footprint. Although they can tower high above the ground, the impact on the land is minimal. The area around the base of the wind turbine can often be used for other purpose such as agriculture.
  • Wind turbines are considered relatively low maintenance. A new wind turbine can be expected to last some time prior to any maintenance work needing to be carried out.
  • Local and Economic Benefits. As well as attracting investment into Ireland, wind energy is also contributing to our national growth through paying taxes, and is predicted to contribute a tax revenue of €1.8 billion by 2030. Ireland saves money (over €1 billion in the last five years) on wind energy from cutting down on expensive fossil fuel imports. In 2014 wind energy alone saved us over €200m on fossil fuel payments.

Wind turbines produce electricity approximately 85% of the time. The other 15% of the time they are not turning for reasons, such as: very low wind speeds, very high wind speeds, and maintenance/repair work.

Wind turbines operate automatically, self-starting when the wind speed reaches an average about three to five m/s (about 10 mph), equal to that of a gentle breeze which otherwise would only be strong enough to rustle leaves and light twigs. The output increases linearly with the wind speed until the wind speed reaches 13 to 14 m/s (about 30 mph) equal to that of a strong breeze. At this point, the wind turbine will reach its maximum generating capacity.

If the average wind exceeds the maximum operational limit of 25m/s, equal to that of a storm, the wind turbine shuts down by the feathering of blades, in order to avoid excessive wear-and-tear. Upon the average wind speed dropping back below 25 m/s the wind turbine will restart.

After six to seven months, a wind turbine will have produced as much energy as it has gone into constructing.

The amount of electricity a single wind turbine generates depends on its size, the wind speed and the efficiency rating of the turbine make, and model.

Onshore wind turbines can produce somewhere between 0.5 MW, and 3.45 MW, powering roughly 350 to over 2,200 households per year.

Within Ireland and the United Kingdom, there are currently 1,180 wind farms with a potential generation capacity of 11,508MW. This is enough to power almost 7.5 million households across both markets.

Wind turbines are available in many different sizes, largely varying between producers and models and dependent upon the amount of energy that it is required to produce.

​The total height of a wind turbine is determined by the height of its tower and the length of its rotor blade, which is normally about half of the tower's height.

Currently, tower components designed for commercial use can be up to 120 metres in height, while rotor components can have a radius of up to 70 metres. Taking this into account a wind turbine has the potential to be 190 metres tall from foundation level to the tip of the highest rotor blade.

Wind farms are expected to have an operational lifespan of 20-25 years.

In general, the site will then be reviewed and assessed to determine whether the wind farm may be repowered or otherwise decommissioned.

Decommissioning entails the dismantling the above ground equipment and then removing it from the site, and the restoration of the land and surrounding areas to their previous condition. Repowering entails the installation of new, more efficient wind turbines within the wind farm site.

Modern wind turbines can generate noise across the frequency range of human hearing, and even some of which occur below the level of human hearing (20Hz to 20,000Hz), such as: Low Frequency Noise (LFN) or Infrasound.

Both terms refer to noises which occur in the range of 20 Hz down to 0.001 Hz; below what the human ear can comprehend.

These noises are generated naturally within the atmosphere which surrounds us, including: waterfalls, the crashing of waves against a coastline, or wind.

However it can also be generated by a wide range of human-created sources, such as: industrial processes, motor vehicles, air conditioning or wind farms.

Studies have confirmed that LFN and Infrasound levels produced by wind farms are below accepted thresholds, and are less than that caused through naturally occurring means. (British Wind Energy Association/Renewables UK, 2005)

There is currently no scientific data to suggest that the levels of LFN or Infrasound emitted by wind turbines make humans sick. Research to date has concluded that there are no plausible links to adverse health from the noise levels emanating from wind turbines.

School Visits

Killoughteen National School visit to Limerick Wind Farm

During the year, ESB facilitates school visits to our wind farms dotted around the country. If you want to visit one of these wind farms, please contact us here.

Learn More

You can learn all about ESB's Wind Energy Strategy and Projects here.