Renewable Energy in Business & Industry

With rising fuel costs, climate change and the opening of the electricity and gas markets to new suppliers, the requirement to monitor and reduce energy consumption is more important than ever before for industry in Ireland.

The following are a list of options available to businesses, industry and local authorities interested in converting to renewable sources of energy.

Building Design

New buildings should be designed with minimum energy use in mind. This can be achieved through passive design techniques which you will find in SEAI's Guidelines for the Design and Construction of Passive House Dwellings in Ireland

Renewable energy measures such as solar thermal / heat pumps / biomass biolers / stoves can then also be considered. Existing buildings such as hospitals, leisure centres and council offices could be successfully retro-fitted with solar panels for space and water heating. Buildings designed to create a comfortable working environment with the minimum of artificial heating, cooling and lighting have lower energy costs and environmental impacts. Existing buildings can also be addressed in this respect; take a look at SEAI's Guidelines for Upgrading Existing Dwellings in Ireland to the Passivhaus Standard.

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Geothermal / Ground Source Heat Pumps

Ground source heat pumps are an ideal solution for heating and cooling in commercial buildings. These systems can collect (for heating) or "dump" (for cooling) energy through pipes buried just below the ground. Installation costs are similar to those of conventional heating systems; running costs are much lower.

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Solar Panels

Solar collectors can be particularly economical for space or water heating in large buildings. Even in Ireland’s variable climate, solar panels can provide around 60% of the hot water requirements for homes and buildings.

Photovoltaic (PV) panels, which convert solar energy directly into electricity, are particularly relevant for stand-alone power systems for remote locations. On a small scale, PV panels can power electric fencing. On a larger scale, they can provide backup power where grid supplies are unreliable.

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Waste to Energy

Many businesses produce substantial volumes of waste (e.g. wood waste in joineries and workshops) that could be harnessed to generate cheap heat or electricity or both.

The benefits of waste to energy include energy cost savings and solutions to waste management and environmental problems. Dry wastes can be combusted or gasified to produce heat and/or power; wet wastes can be processed to biogas by anaerobic digestion.

Advanced thermal conversion technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis offer efficient, low emission solutions for energy from municipal and industrial solid waste. Given the lack of public acceptance of incineration plants in Ireland, these technologies offer a useful alternative.

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Landfill Gas

Landfill sites closed or upgraded in line with new waste management policy will continue to produce environmentally damaging and potentially hazardous methane emissions for many years to come. Collecting this gas for electricity production is a cheap, clean and highly successful renewable energy technology. Five landfill gas sites are now operational in Ireland and there is significant potential for developing further landfill sites around the country.

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Biomass CHP

Combined Heat and Power (CHP) is a very common energy efficient technology used increasingly in industry worldwide. Biomass CHP uses renewable fuels derived from four main sources: forest residues, agricultural residues, waste and processing residues, and crop processing.

Benefits include reduced energy costs, security against energy price fluctuations, a secure supply of energy, compliance with environmental legislation and improved profit margin. Suitable businesses will have access to wood or waste bi-products and high energy costs with simultaneous demand for heat and electricity on site.

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CHP from Sewage Sludge

Anaerobic digestion is now well established as a method for the treatment of sewage sludge in Ireland, with digesters installed at several locations. The biogas produced can be burned in CHP plant to produce heat and electricity.

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Biofuels, derived from a variety of crops and wastes, can be blended with conventional vehicle fuels to produce a greener alternative. Using biofuels reduces CO2 emissions and the use of finite fossil fuels. Businesses involved in transport can significantly reduce their environmental impact by opting for blended fuels which are available in Ireland.

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District Heating

District heating, where heat from generating plants and specially built facilities is piped to local homes, is common in Europe. In Ireland, waste heat from generating plants is simply dumped to rivers. The establishment of district heating networks in appropriate Irish locations would bring significant social and environmental benefits.

Heat produced locally, for instance in a farm straw boiler, can be shared among local houses. Centralized wood burning plants can provide heat for larger communities.

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Wind Turbines

On the continent it is common for businesses to invest in a wind turbine to contribute to their electricity supply. Particularly along the western seaboard, but also at other windy sites around the country, this is a realistic option for Irish businesses. Elsewhere in Europe it is common for local authorities and private companies to develop wind farms to generate electricity.

In Ireland’s liberalized electricity market (from February 2000), businesses can now become suppliers of power for their own consumption or for sale to other consumers.

Local opposition can be one of the most serious obstacles to wind farm development. Where the community is behind a development, success is much more likely.

In remote locations, where grid connection costs are prohibitive, small wind turbines combined with battery storage can provide a solution to electricity supply problems for small communities and businesses.

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Investing in Renewable Energy Development

Developing or investing in the development of renewable energy projects can be a good investment. Wind farms, small hydro power schemes and landfill gas recovery developments can all offer a good rate of return on investment.

A new form of tax relief, introduced under Section 62 of 1998 Finance Bill, is available for corporations making equity investments in renewable energy projects.

The tax relief scheme applies to wind, hydro, solar and biomass energy projects approved by the Department of Public Enterprise. A company can invest up to €38 million (€12.69 p/a over three years) in a number of renewable energy projects for which it can recoup tax relief at whatever rate the company pays (currently 36 % for corporations) from its own profits.

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Altener II

The Altener II Programme can support local authority studies aiding planning policy for renewable energy development (e.g. Cork County Council’s project to assist the formulation of planning policies and standards for wind energy development in the county).

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