Wind energy sector to spend around €4.7bn by 20/20 and has generated 3,400 jobs in Ireland

Wind Energy operators have committed to spend around €4.7bn developing new onshore projects in Ireland by 2020.

A new study, also due for publication today, will show that the wind energy sector now employs 3,400 people in Ireland.

The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) will reveal the job figures at its annual autumn conference in Galway today.

Wind Off

By an end-of-September deadline operators had paid €27m in deposits under contracts with Eirgrid to connect 119 planned wind projects to the national grid by 2020 as part of the so-called “Gate 3” process.

Gate 3 is the process to approve applications to connect new power generation projects to the national grid in batches, rather than on an ad-hoc basis.

The projects will have a total generation capacity of 2,746 megawatts (MW), more than double the amount of power currently generated by wind here.

The Government faces financial penalties of as much as €350m a year if the country fails to hit the renewable energy targets by 2020.

“We estimate that 2014 and 2015 will see a significant growth in the wind energy sector and that investment over the next seven years by this next tranche of wind energy projects will total almost €4.7bn,” according to the chief executive of the IWEA Kenneth Matthews.

A survey of IWEA members found that 60pc expect to hire additional staff in 2014.

Energy Minister Pat Rabbitte is among the speakers at today’s event.

“Wind energy not only helps Ireland overcome its energy challenges but provides new opportunities for growth and value creation. Over the next few years, as we move towards meeting our 2020 targets, the number of people employed in the industry will grow very substantially,” Mr Rabbitte will tell the audience.

One potential issue facing the industry here is local opposition to some onshore projects.

“Community acceptance and support will be essential in realising our vision for wind in Ireland and local communities must be at the heart of the energy transition. Local communities must be engaged and consulted through effective and timely communication from the start of projects right through to commissioning and operation,” Mr Matthews said.