Nature+Energy. Adding Value to Ireland’s Renewable Resources
Dr. Ian Donohue, Prof. Jane Stout, Prof. Yvonne Buckley, Dr. Aoibheann Gaughran
In 2020, Ireland’s ~305 wind farms supplied 37% of Ireland’s total electricity demand. Renewable electricity supply is set to rise to 70% by 2030 as new wind and solar farms are built. This expansion will help us to reduce our reliance on environmentally harmful fossil fuels and meet our climate change targets.
The Nature+Energy project is founded on the idea that wind farms have the potential to provide so much more than renewable energy. If managed properly, the biodiversity on onshore wind farms has the potential to not only take even more carbon out of the atmosphere, but also to improve the resilience of ecosystems to climate change and to enhance the provision of ecosystem services, such as pollination, water filtration and habitat provision. There is much potential to enhance nature’s contributions to people through improving our understanding of how habitat quality, diversity and connectivity can be enhanced by wind farm land-management for conservation.
Nature+Energy will develop new ways of accounting for the value of nature on wind farms. We will design a state-of-the-art environmental monitoring system that will revolutionise how we measure and monitor biodiversity on and around wind farms. We will develop a sector-specific Natural Capital Accounts, Land-Management Decision Support Tools and Biodiversity Action Plans to facilitate the enhancement of biodiversity and help to mitigate the effects of wind farms on key species.
Finally, Nature+Energy will develop a programme for sector-specific industry-academia education and collaboration. Our graduate training and mentorship programme will be co-developed by industry and academia with the goal of building human capacity in natural capital accounting and management, and will be key in delivering the upskilling required to facilitate Ireland’s transition to a net-zero society and economy.
“Climate change and the erosion of biodiversity are the twin environmental crises facing all of humanity. By focusing on solution for overcoming these problems, this project give us the opportunity to showcase how researchers and industry can work together to develop genuine win-win scenarios for the economy, society and the environment” – Dr. Ian Donohue
Dr Ian Donohue – Biodiversity, global environmental change and the stability of ecosystems.
Prof Jane Stout – Ecosystem services, pollination, nature-based solutions, natural capital.
Prof Yvonne Buckley – Population biology, quantitative ecology, environmental decisions, ecosystem services, natural capital and climate change impacts.
Dr Aoibheann Gaughran – Ecology, biodiversity, ecosystem services, human-wildlife interactions.
Prof Andrew Parnell – Quantitative ecology, mathematical and statistical modelling, machine learning, climate change impacts.
Éabhín Byrne – Renewable energy policy specialist, biodiversity.
“Ireland is a world leading in addressing the challenges of integrating wind energy into power systems and has a tremendous wind resource. Goverment policy is to more than double current wind power levels by 2030. Nature + Energy will provide the evidence to ensure this growth takes place in a manner that maximises Biodiversity” – Prof. Brian O’ Gallachoir MaREI Director.
Nature+Energy is funded by MaREI, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine, a consortium of Irish renewable energy companies and Wind Energy Ireland. Our renewable energy partners, The NTR Foundation, SSE Renewables, Energia, ESB, EnergyPro, Ecopower, Greencoat and Ørsted, manage and supply just under 2.5GW (nearly 60%) of the Republic of Ireland’s onshore wind energy.