PEAT has a lot to recommend it. It imparts a delicious flavour to whiskey. It emits an agreeable aroma when burned. It is a cheap source of energy; at its simplest it involves no more than digging by hand. Ireland, which has bogs full of the stuff, uses it for 6% of its energy.
But peat is also one of the dirtiest fuels available, emitting 23% more carbon dioxide than coal. Ireland is unusual among developed countries in burning it for energy on an industrial scale. A geological precursor to coal, it has been used on the island for at least 1,000 years. But it may at last be on its way out as Ireland turns to another energy source of which it has unlimited quantities: wind.
Galway Wind Park, in the remote, soggy hills of Connemara facing the Atlantic Ocean, will be Ireland’s largest wind farm when it is completed this summer, generating 169MW of power at peak capacity, or about 3% of Ireland’s average needs. Some turbines are already generating electricity. It is only the latest development in Irish wind power, which has tripled in the last decade to more than 3GW of capacity. The renewable resource now provides a quarter of the electricity Ireland consumes…Continue reading