A new hydroelectric power station in County Tipperary (Éire)

On the 11th of January Alan Kelly, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government has validated the project for the construction of a new hydroelectric power plant in County Tipperary.

IrishFireside Silvermines Mountain Peak  https://www.flickr.com/photos/irishfireside/1407160769

                                IrishFireside Silvermines Mountain Peak

One of the largest private infrastructure projects in Éire’s history

After six years of feasibility assessments concerning a new hydroelectric power plant in County Tipperary, the Irish Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government gave his assent to this €650 million project last January. Thus the planning process (which includes further feasibility studies and consultations with local communities) will start later in the year and should last between 18 and 24 months. Then about 4 years will be needed for the construction strictly speaking and so, the hydroelectric power plant should be operational in 2022.

The project will be led by a joint venture composed by the two Irish entreprises (the developer Siga Hydro and the construction company Roadbridge) and two Austrian firms (the construction & technology companies Strabag Group and Andritz Hydro).

The former mining site at Silvermines will be used to build a 360 MW hydroelectric power plant. More specifically the existing 70 metres well will be used as a reservoir. It will be associated with another lower reservoir for a total capacity of 2.5 billion litres of water in a closed system (which means that there will not be any losses). A 5 metres thick steel pipe will allow to pump water between the two reservoirs but also to supply with water an underground powerhouse in which turbines will produce electricity thanks to the mechanical energy delivered by water. Furthermore a combined wind farm will allow the use of off-peak periods power production by sending water to the first elevated reservoir at night and next releasing this water during the day to the lower reservoir (by gravity only).


A “win-win” project

This is the second plant of this kind to be built in Ireland after the Turlough Hill Power station (292 MW) in County Wicklow but it will be the country’s most efficient electricity generation plant. It will produce enough electricity to supply 200 000 homes 5 hours per day. Thanks to its alternative functioning (between night and day) it will be an economical and environmentally friendly way to produce and store electricity contrariwise to other renewable energies.

On the other hand it will be a good way to decontaminate water in the reservoir, which has not been used since 1993 and also to end the seepage of harmful minerals into local water tables which affects people and livestock in the area.

By using an existing reservoir, less construction work will be needed and so it will significantly reduce the environmental impacts. In addition the project will benefit from an existing power grid close to the area. Only a short grid connection distance (only underground cables will be used, no pylons) will be necessary (with a maximal distance of 800 metres) to link the plant with the existing 220 or 400 kV lines.

This project will also bring a lot of benefits for local communities which have been facing economic and social difficulties since the stop of the mining activity at Silvermines in 1993. For example 400 construction jobs will be created, mainly destined for local people in Nenagh, Roscrea…and 50 permanent jobs will be created to operate the plant.


According to the Minister Alan Kelly this is a “win-win” project that will bring a lot of benefits at a national level (the total value is estimated around €2.5 billion over the lifetime of the plant. It is also a way to meet the requirements of the government after COP21 as well as, on a local scale as it will greatly boost the area.


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