The utilisation of wind energy in the West of Ireland includes a number of phases, the use of wind pumps in Connemara in the 1950’s and the development of windfarms to produce electricity, commencing in the 1990’s.

Ireland is committed under the Kyoto Protocol of December 1997 to a limit on the rise of greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 to 2010 of 13% and will be subject to penalties if this limit is breached. Given
that it is predicted that electricity generation in Ireland is likely to increase by 50% over the period 1990 to 2010 it will be difficult to meet the Kyoto target. There is a potential for wind energy to play an important role in addressing this problem.


Producing electricity from wind is a new industry; there was no commercial wind power in Europe until the 1980’s. Wind energy technology is still developing and the wind turbines are becoming more efficient, cheaper and with increasing capacity.
Civil, electrical, electronic and mechanical engineers are all playing a role in this area. Windfarms are sites with a group of wind turbines generating electricity on a significant scale.


  • Renewable energy source
  • No greenhouse gases (which contribute to global warming)
  • No sulphur dioxide emissions (which are a cause of acid rain)
  • No harmful emissions / wastes (gas, liquid or solid)
  • Positive impact on Ireland’s Balance of Payments


Windmills were introduced into Ireland by the Anglo-Normans. The earliest Irish windmill at Kiscalan, Co. Wexford is known to have been in existence in 1281. In 1585 a windmill is known to have been in existence at Galway.
Between then and the early years of the 19th century there were at least twenty-four windmills in Co. Galway. By the late 19th century wind power was used to pump water on large estates.
During the 1920's and the 1930's Maurice Sweeney B.E. built at least 13 wind powered public water schemes for Galway County Council.
During the 1950's a major survey was undertaken on the potential for electricity generation from wind power in Ireland. Two sites were investigated in Co. Galway, one at Roundstone, the other being the Aran Islands.

At the beginning of 2000 there were 10 windfarms in operation in Ireland with 70 MW of installed capacity and producing just over 1% of Ireland’s electricity. All of these plants are located in the West and North West with the exception of one site in Cork.
The first significant wind energy installation in Ireland was the windfarm at Bellacorick, Co. Mayo, built in 1992 on a site adjacent to a turf power station.
There are other wind energy projects in the West of Ireland at the planning or construction stage. The
West of Ireland is well positioned to play a significant role in the development of this industry, which is still in its infancy. The West coast of Ireland, along with Scotland, has the highest wind speeds in Europe. Wind speed is all important e.g. a turbine on a site with average wind speed of 8 m/sec will produce 80% more electricity than one on site with wind speed of 6m/sec.


Rotor – Generally consists of 3 glass fibre reinforced polyester blades connected to a hub on a horizontal shaft, which rotates at 15 to 30 RPM.

Nacelle - Contains the key components of the wind turbine, including gearbox, electrical generator and control systems. Service personnel can enter the nacelle from the tower of the turbine.

Tower - Towers are mostly cylindrical (or polygonal) and made of steel, generally painted light grey. It is an advantage to have a high tower, since wind speeds increase farther away from the ground.
The yaw mechanism is located between the top of the tower and nacelle and uses electrical motors to turn the nacelle and rotor to face the wind. The tower incorporates access ladders and electrical cables.

Base – Consists of large reinforced concrete structure, buried underground.



  Parameter Value Units  
  Height 25-80 m  
  Diameter 30-65 m  
  Turbine size 2.0 MW  
  Turbine size 0.6 MW  
  Start-up wind speed 4 - 5 m/sec  
  Optimum wind speed 15 m/sec  
  Cut-out speed 25 m/sec