ESB is Ireland’s leading energy utility company and has business interests spanning generation, transmission, distribution and supply. The company has over 2 million customers and employs over 7,800 staff.
ESB’s business strategy involves the decarbonisation of its power generation activities by 2035. Indeed, it is estimated that one third of ESB’s electricity will be generated from renewable sources by 2020. In order to facilitate sustainability targets and economic growth, ESB is developing an advanced smart networks system. At the end of 2010, ESB acquired Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) – a company with a regulated asset base of €1.2 billion.
In Britain, ESB has ownership interests and operates two gas-fired power plants at Corby in Northamptonshire (350MW) and Marchwood in Hampshire (842MW). In addition, the company has an 85% shareholding in the proposed 860MW Carrington CCGT plant near Manchester.
ESB owns and operates the West Durham Wind Farm– a 12 turbine, 24MW wind farm located near Tow Law, County Durham. The project was developed, financed and constructed by The Banks Group and started generating power in May 2009.
The company’s most recent UK acquisition is the Myndd Y Betws project in south Wales. The project was acquired from Welsh developer Eco2 in 2010 and is currently under construction. Commercial operation is planned for early 2013.
ESB sees the future of the Irish and British energy markets as one integrated trading market. For this reason it has constructed generation plants in both Northern Ireland and Britain.
Within its portfolio, ESB owns ESB International (ESBI) – a multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy specialising in the electricity sector. The company has acted as project manager, engineer and CDMC/PSDP for all ESB-constructed wind farm projects.
Sean Hegarty, a wind energy specialist and manager of ESBI’s wind energy solutions group, said:
In ESBI, our specialist knowledge of design, stakeholder management, planning and grid connections as well as electricity generation and transmission mitigates much of the risk associated with these challenges.
“Challenges arise in every project, but we always overcome them safely and successfully.”
This view is endorsed by Ken Boyne, who is the Project Director of Wind Construction for ESB Wind Development, the company’s renewable asset development group. He said:
“We rely heavily on the ability of the ESB International team to deliver our projects safely and to maximise the long-term value of our investments by ensuring the quality and indeed the timely completion of the projects through our preferred multi-contract model. This has become more important in recent years as sites become more challenging and the funding environment more difficult.”
ESB International provides services to energy asset owners and investors in wind farms, thermal power plants and electricity transmission and distribution systems. This includes an end-to-end engineering and project management solution for the development, construction, operation and maintenance of wind farms.
The company has been in operation for 35 years and employs 1,100 staff in 20 countries around the world. As well as serving international clients, ESBI is supporting ESB’s multi-billion euro strategy to establish itself as a modern, highly efficient and sustainable utility. This is being achieved through the development of wind farms, new power stations and the refurbishment and upgrading of transmission assets. ESBI’s expertise in the wind farm sector is a key enabler of ESB’s strategy to become one of the first carbon neutral utilities in the world.
ESBI has taken an active role in the construction of wind farms for over twenty years. This includes the first commercial wind farm in Ireland. It has worked on over 35 wind farms in locations including Ireland, the UK, Spain, Poland and South Africa.
Their most recent projects include Fullabrook Wind Farm in North Devon, the largest on-shore wind farm in England to date, and the 59.5MW Derrybrien Wind Farm in Co. Galway. In the UK and Ireland ESBI has worked on grid connection applications with a combined capacity exceeding 2,000 MW.
ESB International Marketing Manager, Bevin Cody, said:
“At ESB International we offer an end-to-end engineering and project management solution, incorporating all of the services necessary for wind farm design, assessment, construction and operations and maintenance.
“This includes specialist in-house services, such as initial wind resource evaluations, wind data analyses, wind farm modelling and optimisation, site selection and grid connections, as well as civil works such as geotechnical site assessments and turbine foundation design.
“As an engineering consultancy with a utility background, ESBI has a unique insight into the technical, commercial and operational challenges facing our clients in the electricity sector. This helps us to minimise project risk and provides assurance to project investors and lenders.”
ESBI provides a structured approach to project management. This is designed to ensure that risk is fully understood and mitigated and wind farm owners are aware of all of a site’s operational needs throughout its life time.
Bevin Cody added: “Our understanding and in-depth knowledge of all aspects of the entire electricity sector, means that ESB International can advise clients not just on their individual wind farm project, but on the best way to optimise its performance within the wider context in which it will be located.”
ESBI offers a full range of services including: engineering, project management, operations and maintenance, strategic consultancy and carbon solutions.
The Curryfree wind farm in Northern Ireland is part of a cluster of three wind farms alongside SSE’s Slieve Kirk and ESB’s own Carrickatane wind farm. The project was acquired and built by RES – one of the leading renewable energy companies in the world – on behalf of ESB.
The wind farm was completed in August 2011 and generates 15MW, providing enough power for 7000 homes. The turbines are Nordex N80 and were selected to maximise the full lifecycle return of the wind farm.
The development consists of six wind turbines with a hub height of 60m, a rotor diameter of 80m and a total height of 100m. Each octagonal shaped turbine base is 17m and foundation of each turbine is filled with 400m³ of concrete.
The main civil works were undertaken by local contractor W&H Alexander.
Due to weather conditions during winter 2010, the construction of Curryfree the site experienced a three-week closure. Water quality sampling and breeding bird surveys were also carried out as part of the project.
The turbines are maintained under contract by Nordex and the wind farm is operated by ESB’s specialist Wind O&M team. ESB’s supply company Electric Ireland purchases the energy for onward supply to customers.
Construction of the Carrickatane Wind Farm commenced in late 2011. The site was selected due to its financial viability and the availability of good wind speeds, grid connection and accessibility.
The Carrickatane site boasts 9 turbines with a combined capacity of 20.7MW. The energy will be supplied to Electric Ireland and will generate power for approximately 9000 homes.
The turbines used will be Siemens SWT 2.3-93 and they will have a hub height of 63.5m, a blade tip of 110m and a rotor diameter of 93m.
Following discussions with the local council, access roads have been modified as part of the initial construction works. This will allow large machinery to safely access the site.
Completed in 2011, the Grouse Lodge Wind Farm in Ireland provides 7000 homes with power. Although other wind farms are located in the area, Grouse Lodge is not a cluster site like the Curryfree and Carrickatane sites.
The site was selected due to the close proximity of Foynes port and good wind speeds and ground conditions, including a minimum level of peat.
The development comprises six Nordex N90 turbines, each of which has a 90m rotor diameter and a hub height of 70m. Energy from this site will also be supplied to Electric Ireland.
In order to offer easy access, site roads were installed 18 months prior to the main construction work taking place.
Although the project suffered some challenges due to weather conditions in 2010, the project was completed on schedule exactly one year after construction commenced.
The Fullabrook site in Devon is the largest on-shore wind farm in England.
Although the site was originally scheduled to be developed by The Baker Group, ESB acquired it in July 2009 and construction work began in October 2010.
The Fullabrook development comprises 22 Vestas V90 wind turbines with a rotor diameter of 90m and a hub height of 65m. With an impressive capacity of 66MW, the wind farm will provide 30,000 homes with power and will save 75,000 tonnes of annual CO2 emissions.
The output from the wind farm will be exported from the new on-site substation via an underground high voltage (132kV) cable to a network substation in Barnstaple, approximately 6.3km away.
Vestas will maintain the turbines under contract to ESB and a PPA is in place with Centrica.
Pulverised Fuel Ash (PVA) was used in the construction of the structures. This is a recycled material from power stations and forms approximately 70% of the raw material used in the foundations.
All grid connection works, including securing way leave agreements, were the responsibility of Western Power Distribution (WPD) – the local Distribution Network Operator.
Completed at the end of 2011, the development posed a number of challenges. Temporary ‘passing bays’ were constructed on narrow roads near to the site, whilst main civil contractor JSSL set up a temporary concrete batching plant in order to reduce the transportation of materials.
93km of cables operating at 33kV were installed in three circuits and were ducted rather than directly buried. This was designed to minimise the need to remove hedging as it was important to protect the Devon Banks.
Regular water monitoring took place on the River Knowle and a temporary settlement pond was developed at the substation. A landowner interface was particularly crucial during the development of Fullabrook as turbines are co-located with intensive farming activities. As a result, ESB appointed a full time landowner and community liaison officer in order to create a positive working relationship with the local community. Presentations, newsletters and a website were all implemented as part of this process.
ESBI’s Sean Hegarty said: “We were very pleased with how construction of the wind farm progressed and we look forward to our continuing involvement at a local level during the operational life of the wind farm.”
Myndd Y Betws
ESB recently began a new project in Myndd Y Betws, Wales. Work began on the site in October 2011 and the development consists of 15 turbines, which will generate 35MW to power 16000 homes.
The Siemens SWT 93 2.3MW turbines have a 110m tip and a 63.5m hub height. Construction of the foundations will include Pulverised Fuel Ash.
At the moment, enabling works are in place and an access road is being constructed. Based on the success of a similar initiative in Fullabrook, ESB has appointed a full time landowner and community liaison officer to proactively liaise with the local community and engage with a wide range of local representative groups.
As stipulated in the planning permission of the site, ESB is required to monitor and mitigate a number of measures during construction. A Habitat Management Scheme has to be submitted, which includes management of grazing livestock, plants and animals. In addition, a warden will be appointed to oversee the scheme.
Myndd Y Betws is scheduled for completion in 2013 and the wider community will benefit from a fund that will be administered by a representative group for the lifetime of the project.
There are already operational wind farms in the area, with further wind farms in the pipeline.
Crockagarran Wind Farm is located in Sixmilecross, Co. Tyrone and commenced operation in August 2010. The development comprises six Nordex N90 2.5MW wind turbines with a 15MW output and produces energy for 8,400 homes, in the process reducing CO2 emissions by 32,000 tonnes. Civil works were completed by ADMAN and the electrical works were delivered by Powerteam.
ESB’s 20MW Hunters Hill Wind Farm in Co Tyrone is currently generating electricity for 11,200 homes per year. Located 10km from Omagh, the site consists of 8 Nordex N80 2.5MW turbines with a total installed capacity of 20MW.
Hunters Hill was developed by RES UK & Ireland Ltd and was granted planning approval in January 2008. Construction work started in September 2008 and the site was purchased by ESB from RES in February 2009, with the construction works being completed under an EPC contract by RES Construction.
ESB Wind Development Project Director, Ger Keenaghan, said: “Hunters Hill is a significant boost to Northern Ireland’s renewable energy generation capacity.
“The project is another example of the strong relationship between ESB and RES and it further underlines both companies’ strong record in leading renewable development on this scale.”