Philip Rainey, Chief Executive of local wind energy company Simple Power, knows a thing or two about energy having spent his former years as an Irish international rugby player. An experienced project manager and engineer, Philip now oversees Simple Power’s single wind turbine projects across Northern Ireland.
“Founded in 2010, Simple Power was established when renewables accounted for just around 10 percent of the energy we consume. With the publication of NI’s Strategic Energy Framework around this time, there was an appetite and added impetus for this figure to grow and Simple Power was founded to help maximise the role of wind power in our country’s energy mix.
The beauty of wind energy lies in its simplicity. Wind turbines generate electricity without producing carbon dioxide or green house gases. The ‘fuel’ is free and particularly abundant in Northern Ireland given our geography and terrain.
Working in partnership with local farmers and landowners, we provide a turnkey solution by identifying appropriate sites and developing and installing 250Kw wind turbines. Currently, we have 44 turbines in rural locations across NI which collectively provide around 11MW of clean energy a year– enough to power 6,000 local homes.
From navigating the planning process and working with the Distribution Network Operator (DNO), NIE, to secure gird connections, to maintaining and managing the wind turbines, we play a key role in not only helping diversify NI’s energy mix but in helping farmers to diversify their operations.
The whole process is not without its challenges. Northern Ireland suffers from grid connectivity issues and we must be mindful of various planning procedures and regulations when assessing potential sites. We work collaboratively with our farming partners, along with agri focused organisations such as the Ulster Farmers Union and Young Farmers Club of Ulster and business experts like our bank to ensure the needs of farmers – and industry – are met in the most effective and efficient way.
With the closure of Northern Ireland’s Renewable Obligation (NIRO) scheme, we have spent much of our time in the last 18 months assessing projects before the imposing deadlines. Currently, we are developing a number of projects that have met the closing criteria and managing our active portfolio. As well as the practicalities that come with installing, maintaining and operating wind turbines, we are champions of renewables. With that comes the need to educate others on the benefits and opportunities presented by wind energy as well as the challenges facing the sector.
Part and parcel of this is working closely with the government, DNO and industry as a whole to maximise the role of wind energy now and in the future. Through our own experience, we have seen a decline in applications due to grid saturation, so there is a need for continued innovation in the sector. Investment, technological research and collaboration are key parts of this. The last ten years has demonstrated that this approach yields positive results. The cost of renewable technology continues to fall and we have seen great strides in sectoral advances such as battery and energy storage. What we are missing however is a strategic plan and firm direction of travel – something we can all work towards together. Our sector looks forward to working with government and other key bodies in developing a new renewables support structure, post NIRO, to ensure an even playing field with GB and the continued promotion of a greener and more sustainable form of energy.”