Diverse generation

Bord na Móna was first established in the 1940s with the primary remit of exploiting the natural Irish peatland areas for energy to support the country’s electricity and domestic heating markets. Over the years, the business has undergone a process of diversification and today is very much driven by a need to reduce the reliance on the traditional peat industries and focus on more long term sustainable solutions. “The traditional peat businesses are facing dwindling revenues and we expect to cease operations relating to peat energy solutions by 2030, so there is a finite timetable for this,” explains Business Development Manager for Power Generation, Brendan Connolly. “The diversification is also being driven by environmental issues and we are focusing closely on developing more sustainable solutions across all our divisions and markets.”

Whilst being involved in the power generation sector for close to 80 years now, in 2006 Bord na Móna made the move upstream by acquiring Edenderry Power Plant. “This triggered a new era of growth and development as the company’s portfolio of power-generating assets began to fill up,” highlights Brendan. “In line with our overall ambitions the portfolio’s key focus has been on moving towards more sustainable, renewable power generation. As such, the Edenderry plant, which was traditionally 100 per cent peat fired, is now co-fired with 30 per cent biomass and we look to increase this to 40 per cent over the coming years.”
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One significant area where these ambitions will be achieved is in wind power, of which the company has so far installed approximately 130 megawatts and has a pipeline of significant projects looking ahead for the next five to ten years. In 1992, the company commissioned Ireland’s first commercial wind farm in Bellacorick, Co. Mayo with 21 turbines, and since then the Bruckana 14-turbine farm and 1200 hectare, 28-turbine Mountlucas farm have been added. “Currently we are actively pursuing a couple of project opportunities, which we will be announcing within the next few months and are also undergoing consultation with the local community in Co. Offaly with respect to a new wind farm development which we hope will go into the planning process in the middle of next year,” outlines Brendan. “This will be in region of 60-70 megawatts, and over the next two to three years, we hope to reach this stage with three or four others of the same scale.”

Elsewhere in Bord na Móna’s strategy to diversify, it is considering a number of projects in the energy from waste and solar programmes. “Given the trajectory of the solar sector in terms of cost reductions we strongly believe there is a lot of potential for this to be rolled out,” says Brendan. “We will also be able to work closely with our waste management partners who are involved in all processes from waste collection, through end processing to resource management, so energy from waste will be another route towards renewable energy. That, as a wider group, we are involved in a number of different business areas is a major strength for us. It means that we can call upon the knowledge and resources of those partners and puts us in a good position to leverage opportunities between them.”

Having been established in the midlands of Ireland for many decades, Bord na Móna has forged long lasting and trust-based relationships with its local communities, and maintaining these is a key value for the organisation as it manages this period of diversification. “The nature of our landholdings means we have large areas of relatively remote land, which are amongst the most suitable sites possible for the development of large energy infrastructure projects,” explains Brendan. “However it is a different challenge gaining social acceptance for these projects and this is why it is important that we engage and co-operate with the local communities and work to address their concerns. It is crucial we keep the public’s trust to continue to develop our pipeline of projects, and promoting these relationships will be key to our continued success, which will ultimately benefit the country as a whole.”

With this process ongoing, the future for the organisation is very much orientated to continue growth to achieve its ambitions. Brendan points out that the overarching goal at present is to become the leading renewable electricity supplier in the Irish market by the early 2030s and is confident that if the company can deliver its potential pipeline of projects it will be well placed to do this. “This doesn’t dismiss the significant challenges involved in getting there, however,” he concludes. “More broadly, the company’s strategy is very much focused on delivering solutions to the key energy policy challenges of decarbonising the energy sector, improving security of supply and increasing diversity in the energy mix. To achieve this, continued growth, maximising the renewable potential and generating a more diverse portfolio will all be key aspects of the transformation of our company over the coming years.”

Bord na Móna

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Irish state-owned group of businesses dedicated to resource recovery, fuel, horticulture, feedstock, power generation, and land and property