Free electricity for tens of thousands of households from excess supply in the “windy day scheme”

65,000 households are provided with free hot water as part of a “windy day program” that uses surplus wind energy.

The program will initially be extended to tenants from local authorities and housing associations, but could ultimately offer all households a mix of free and low-cost electricity during high winds.

It aims to help households with energy bills, accelerate the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy, and prevent the enormous waste of excess wind energy.

Hundreds of thousands of households suffer from energy poverty while tens of millions of euros worth of clean electricity is wasted every year.

Strong winds over the past week provide an illustration. Excess wind-generated electricity could have heated three million hot water tanks between 11pm Thursday night and 7am yesterday, but it went unused. At current prices, €2.44 million worth of clean energy was lost in this way.

In an average year before the energy crisis, around €75 million worth of excess wind disappeared, but its value has skyrocketed over the past 18 months.

Operating an immersion heater now costs households more than one euro per hour.

The surplus distribution system developed by the EnergyCloud charity was piloted in 40 rental apartments built by the non-profit housing association Clúíd.

Details of a major expansion plan will be announced next month, but local authorities and Clúid have already registered 65,000 homes with 140,000 tenants to participate.

Participating residents receive a small switch box mounted on the wall free of charge.

They get a notification to turn off their immersion heater so they don’t use their own paid electricity supply, and in the morning they have a full tank of hot water. During a trial period before Christmas, their tanks were heated three times a week.

EnergyCloud wants to further develop the technology in order to network it with other household appliances such as storage heaters and heat pumps.

Since the first of many large solar parks are also going into operation, the excess electricity from these systems is also to be passed on to needy households.

The charity is a joint venture between government, commercial and private interests.

These include Eirgrid, the national grid operator; ESB, SSE Airtricity, Wind Energy Ireland, Clúid; appliance and technology companies Climote and Kingspan; and Dublin University of Technology.

They recently wrote to all TDs and Senators asking them to bring the program to the attention of their local authorities and housing organizations in their area.

“While a focus of the 2023 budget was action to tackle fuel poverty, we know from the most recent ESRI report that over 550,000 households are affected by fuel poverty,” they wrote.

“But at the same time, 1,448 gigawatt hours (with a retail value of over €300 million and counting) of renewable energy are wasted every year.”

The idea is supported in the climate protection plan published last month, which emphasizes the need for a rapid increase in the displacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy.

It says: “Innovations in tariff planning and new concepts, such as the use of excess renewable energy for households, especially those in energy poverty, are to be promoted.”

A spokesman for EnergyCloud said details of the planned expansion of activities are being finalized and will be released soon.

“But we’re encouraged to see that reference in the climate action plan, which specifically provides for what EnergyCloud is planning.”

Renewable energy provided about 33 percent of the country’s electricity last year, but that share needs to reach 80 percent by 2030 to meet legally binding climate targets, and then increase to 100 percent.

During periods of strong wind, the amount of wind energy available is much higher than 33 percent, but cannot be used for various reasons. Free electricity for tens of thousands of households from excess supply in the “windy day scheme”

Fry Electronics Team

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