Planning for Silvermines hydropower station to be submitted next year

  • Oct 20, 2021
  • Irish Times

A planning application for the €650 million Silvermines hydroelectric power station in north Tipperary will be submitted in the first quarter of 2023, its developers have confirmed.

If approved, the plant located in the Silvermines mountains would be one of the largest private infrastructure projects in the history of the State, and would generate 360 megawatts of electricity; enough to power 200,000 homes.

It is similar in design to Ireland’s only “pumped-storage hydroelectricity plant” run by the ESB at Turlough Hill in Co Wicklow.

The project, which is backed by institutional and private investors, “is very much on course for its 2023 planning application”, according to Silvermines Hydro chief executive Darren Quinn – and on target to be brought into use in 2028.

The 360 megawatt hydroelectricity plant, he said, is set to be included in Ireland’s latest electricity generation “projects of common interest” list, compiled by the European Commission which includes developments of strategic interest to the EU.

The Silvermines project, together with similarly critical European infrastructure investments, such as the Celtic Interconnector and Greenlink Interconnector linking Ireland’s grid to France and the UK, “will increase the transmission grid capacity, thereby underpinning the many of objectives and actions needed in delivering the upcoming climate action plan later this month”, Mr Quinn said.

Silvermines Hydro plan to generate electricity from a storage-based technology on the site of a disused mine. Water from a higher elevation reservoir will be released to a lower reservoir, flowing through large turbines and generating electricity at peak demand in the process. The water is pumped from a lower reservoir to the higher reservoir at night or during low electricity demand periods.

The lower reservoir already exists by way of an open-cast mine, flooded to a depth of some 70m, at the foot of the Silvermines mountains. A cost-benefit analysis for the project has demonstrated it would provide significant social and economic benefits to Co Tipperary and Ireland.

While it will generate significant amounts of renewable power, “more importantly, it provides a proven, secure and clean alternative to using fossil fuels, such as coal and gas in securing Ireland’s energy future over the next 20 to 30 years”, Mr Quinn said.

Given the threat of energy shortages, the need for the Silvermines hydroelectric power station “is now an even greater imperative”.

The development of a second pump-storage facility in Ireland was included in the 2015 Energy White Paper and will support priorities in the Government’s upcoming climate plan, Mr Quinn confirmed.

Developing a pump-storage option was important in the context of the pressing need for more renewables and the energy challenges facing Ireland, he believed, while the project was aligned with Ireland’s green energy transition targets.