In April 2006 the price support mechanism for renewable electricity was changed. The previous competitive tendering system was replaced with a feed-in tariff with prices of EUR 54 to EUR 57per MWh (EUR 0.054 to EUR 0.057 per kWh) for wind projects depending on size.
In August 2009 a new feed-in tariff was announced for offshore wind power at EUR 140 per MWh (EUR 0.14 per kWh). Also in 2009, the government offered a feed-in tariff for small scale renewable energy of EUR 0.19 per kWh, but only 4,000 projects registered up to 2012 will qualify.
The feed-in tariff schemes are capped at 1,450 MW. Currently projects with a total capacity of 3,000 MW are being processed for grid connection offers. If accepted, it is uncertain if they will be eligible for feed-in tariff.
The Department of Communications Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) is responsible for wind energy policy in Ireland. There are two programmes under which wind energy R&D may be funded; the Parsons Energy R&D Awards, and the Sustainable Energy Ireland Renewable Energy R&D Programme, but no specific R&D budget or programme dedicated solely to wind energy research exists.
Sustainable Energy Ireland (SEI) operates the only government-funded wind energy R&D programme. SEI has provided 50% funding to Tapbury Management for a study into a new electricity storage system.
The Foreshore Administration of the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (DCMNR) deals with the licensing of Offshore Electricity Generating Stations. The Foreshore Acts, 1933 to 2003 require that a Foreshore Lease or Licence must be obtained from the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources for undertaking any works or placing structures or material on, or for the occupation of or removal of material from, State-owned foreshore. Developers require a Foreshore Licence in order to conduct site investigations for assessing the suitability of a site for constructing and operating a ‘wind powered electricity generating station’ and a Lease in order to erect and operate an offshore wind farm.
A big challenge for the industry is that standard planning permission granted to a wind farm development expires after five years and it can take up to six years to process a grid connection application. Planning permission often expires before approval is granted for grid connection. An extension of planning permission can be granted to projects where substantial work has been undertaken. However, the definition of what constitutes substantial work is unclear.