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Irish power developer says grid operator delaying $400M plant

Aug. 29, 2013 at 12:02 AM   |   Comments

DUBLIN, Ireland, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- Ireland's state-owned grid operator says a developer's charges it is intentionally delaying a new $400 million power plant are "unfounded."

EirGrid said in a statement released Tuesday it disagreed with Lumcloon Energy's assertions, which came in a threat to take the national transmission system operator to the High Court and the European Court of Justice over what it called regulatory foot-dragging on its bid to build a new gas-fired power plant in County Offaly.

A Lumcloon company spokesman said EirGrid is trying to force terms on the proposed 325-megawatt plant at Ferbane, Ireland, that would make it economically unfeasible.

The firm announced it had contacted the European Union's electricity price-setting Single Energy Market Committee to demand EirGird provide a clear timetable for the introduction of new rules and answer charges it is acting as a commercial player, The Irish Times reported.

It suggested EirGrid's own operation of a 500-megawatt undersea interconnector with Britain gives it an economic interest in stifling competition by imposing unreasonable terms on other market players.

"As a company without a commercial interest in generation, EirGrid conducts its work in a fair and equitable manner and seeks to achieve benefits for all electricity customers," the TSO responded. "It operates in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion and fully in compliance with all laws, Irish and European. Any suggestion to the contrary is unfounded. This extends to all of EirGrid's operations."

Lumcloon first applied to build the plant in 2008 as part of a government push to replace older, peat-fired generating stations with more modern, gas-fired facilities to provide back-up for wind energy as Ireland seeks to increase it wind-power share to 40 percent by 2020.

The Ferbane plant is proposed to be gas-fired with very low emissions and noise levels, as well as "environmentally friendly" in its fuel usage.

"The Lumcloon plant is part of a new generation of flexible generation facilities required to operate at high efficiency when electricity demand is high," the company said. "It can quickly reduce output to lower levels when demand is low."

It said the plant's technology allows it to rapidly adapt to varying demand levels, reaching full power "within minutes" if wind-generated power falters, unlike the "many hours" its takes most conventional power stations to reach full capacity.

It would consist of two generating units, including a combined-cycle unit that can run continuously, and a reserve unit supporting wind power plants which would be activated in case of a rapid fall-off in wind generation.

Among its other advantages, Lumcloon said, is its site next to the existing transmission lines from the now-closed peat plant, eliminating the need to build new pylons in the area.

But the company and EirGrid have since clashed over Ireland's "DS3" consultation process, imposed to help speed the development of new wind power resources, the Irish newspaper reported.

Lumcloon claimed that unlike other generators, the TSO's offer of connection to the national grid was for seven years -- much shorter than the 10-20 years offered to others.

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