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02 Dec 2021

€650m Silvermines hydro-electric plant to go to planning in 2022

€650m Silvermines hydro-electric plant to go to planning in 2022

Dararen Quinn, CEO of Ireland’s largest planned renewable energy project, the Silvermines hydro-electric station

The CEO of Ireland’s largest planned renewable energy project, the Silvermines hydro-electric station, has said that the planning process for the €650m development will commence in Q1 of next year. 

The project, which is backed by institutional and private investors, is very much on course for its 2023 planning application, according to CEO Darren Quinn, and still on target for 2028 commissioning. 

The planned 360MW hydro-electricity plant is set to be included again in Ireland’s electricity generation ‘Projects of Common Interest’ (PCI) list compiled by the European Commission and, Mr Quinn stated that the project, together with similarly critical European infrastructure investments such as the Celtic Interconnector and Greenlink Interconnector, will increase the transmission grid capacity, thereby underpinning the many of objectives and actions needed in delivering the upcoming Climate Action Plan later this month.

Silvermines Hydro, which is located just outside Silvermines village in North Tipperary, will generate electricity from a storage-based technology.  Water from a higher elevation reservoir will be released to a lower reservoir, flowing through giant turbines and generating electricity at peak demand in the process.  The water is pumped from a lower reservoir to the higher reservoir at night or during low electricity demand periods.

The lower reservoir already exists at the site by way of an open-cast mine flooded to a depth of some 70m at the foot of the Silvermines Mountains. A cost-benefit analysis for the project has demonstrated significant societal benefits to Tipperary and Ireland.

The project has the capacity to generate electricity to power 200,000 homes, but more importantly it provides a proven, secure and clean alternative to using fossil fuels, such as coal and gas in securing Irelands energy future over the next 20 to 30 years.

Mr Quinn said that the pandemic did impede progress temporarily but momentum has been regained.

“Covid was a challenge and did impede progress with some exploratory work at the site. Ironically, the same period has seen massive advancement of the climate change agenda, which is underpinning the project even more than before. Couple that with our own energy shortages, the need for the Silvermines Hydro Electric Power Station is now an even greater imperative,” he said.  

The development of a second pump storage facility in Ireland – Turlough Hill in Wicklow being the first - was included in the Energy White Paper of 2015 and will support the upcoming Climate Action Plan as well, he stated.

“We are well down the road already with our project here and remain the only planned pump storage option in Ireland so, with the pressing need for more renewables and the energy challenges, the pieces are very much falling into place for the project. The good thing is that these pieces are completely aligned with our green energy transition targets,” he stated.

Mr Quinn cited our commitment to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and believes this can be achieved given Ireland’s natural resources and by investing in and increasing the transmission infrastructure to facilitate the integration of the renewables.

“For example, we’ve got huge potential along the western seaboard with untapped wind resources and the key to unlocking these resources for Ireland Inc. is to continue the investment in critical transmission and storage infrastructure and by strengthening our electricity connection with our European neighbours,” he said.

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