The construction of 200 MW of electricity grid stabilisation systems in County Offaly was officially commenced in September of last year and attended by Mr Richard Bruton, TD (Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment), Mr Woon-ki Lyeo (Ambassador of South Korea to Ireland), Mr Mark Foley (CEO, Eirgrid), Mr Du Hyoung Ryoo (CEO, Hanwha Energy Corporation, Korea), Mr Nigel Reams (CEO, Lumcloon Energy Ltd.) and Dr Robert Lynch (Lecturer in Energy, Department of Physics, UL). Based in Lumcloon and Shannonbridge in west Offaly, the two 100 MW battery energy storage plants will involve a combined investment of €150 million and provide more than 120 jobs during the construction phase, which will be completed in early 2021. Once completed, this will be one of the largest battery powered grid stabilisation facilities worldwide and the largest facility of its type in the EU. This project is driven by Offaly based Lumcloon Energy Limited and their South Korean partners, Hanwha Energy Corporation.
There are positive environmental effects of the plants, both in terms of pollution and energy stability. The two facilities are unobtrusive, almost silent in operation and not power plants in the conventional sense. Robert Lynch (Department of Physics) points out that “Currently, whenever there is a large fraction of power from wind energy penetrating the electricity grid, fossil fuels must be burnt to stabilise the grid while not delivering power. These facilities, and facilities of this type, will allow power coming from renewable energy to reach 70% of the instantaneous power being delivered by the Irish electricity grid while keeping the grid stable, reducing our dependence on imported fuel.” Nigel Realms (Lumcloon Energy) highlights that “The project will help the state to greatly mitigate hefty emissions fines threatened by the EU, related to Ireland’s failure to fully meet 2020 targets, and will benefit consumers and business alike” and that “Our electricity traditionally came from highly pollutant sources, like coal, peat, gas and oil, which is no longer sustainable. The new plants at Lumcloon and Shannonbridge will help make Offaly and Ireland a world leader and pioneer in renewable energy”.
The University of Limerick is the leading research facility in Ireland in the field of electrochemical energy storage. UL has led this field for over a decade with a large concentration of related research across the Bernal Institute and the Departments of Physics, Chemistry and Electronic and Computer Engineering. The project in Co. Offaly follows on from several research projects between Dr Robert Lynch and Mr Nigel Reams. The research in this area in UL is extensive and conducted by multiple academics. Prof Noel Buckley, Dr Ian Clancy, Dr Robert Lynch and Dr Fernando Rhen in the Department of Physics work on flow batteries, fuel cells, battery control and monitoring and electricity grid stabilisation. Prof. Kevin Ryan, Dr Tadhg Kennedy and Dr Hugh Geaney in the Department of Chemistry work on Li-ion based battery chemistries and electrodes, i.e. the chemistry of the batteries in Co. Offaly. Several other members of the University of Limerick, including Prof. Edmond Magner and Dr Micheál Scanlon, in the Department of Chemistry, and Prof. Dan Toal, Dr Thomas Conway and Dr Colin Fitzpatrick, in the Department Electronic and Computer Engineering, amongst others, work on related areas of electrochemistry, energy infrastructure and electrical systems.