According to SSE, “Great Island represents an investment of more than €350m and has the capacity to power more than half a million homes on the Irish grid”.
The plant can supply 10 per cent of Irish energy and was running 425 megawatts on the day.
Some 1200 construction (Sisk were the main contractors) and supplier jobs were created during the two and a half year build, according to plant manager Padraig Donleavy. Over 80 per cent of those employed were local to the Wexford and south east areas.
As part of the project, SSE invested €43m in completing a 41km industrial-grade gas pipeline from Bawnlusk in Kilkenny. Developed in partnership with Gas Networks Ireland, this has brought gas to the South East for the first time.
In addition to that pipeline, a 29km natural gas pipeline connecting Great Island to Wexford town has been approved by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER), and gas network operator Gaslink says it expects natural gas to be available to large customers in Wexford by July of next year.
The plant was acquired by SSE in October 2012 from Endesa Ireland in the very early stages of construction – an “acquisition represented an investment by SSE of half a billion euro into the future of Irish energy”.
The Great Island plant entered commercial operation on Friday, April 17th when it began exporting energy to the All Island Single Electricity Market for the first time.
SSE estimates that Great Island will save Irish energy customers in excess of €50m per year as one of Ireland’s most efficient power plants.
Said Enda Kenny: “The substantial investment by SSE in this 464 Mega Watt generating station is a real vote of confidence in the economic future of Ireland. Most importantly it will increase competition in the electricity generation sector.”
He added: “Energy drives our economy and, in order to ensure our economy remains resilient, we must continue to support cost efficient, energy efficient, climate friendly energy.
“I am encouraged to see the ongoing investment and commitment of SSE to Ireland, which has seen the company invest more than €2 billion in the country since 2008.
“The €350 million invested in the Great Island Power Plant by SSE is of great benefit to the people of Wexford, the South East region and the country as a whole, providing over 1,200 construction jobs and over 40 full time staff positions at the plant, bringing the total number of staff employed directly by SSE in Ireland to 820.”
Communications Minister Alex White echoed the Taoiseach’s sentiments.
“Eliminating waste and the aggressive targeting of improved energy efficiency will be key to our transition to a sustainable energy future. This is one of the few elements of energy policy that is completely in our national control.
“By bringing competition to the marketplace on the generation and supply side, SSE are part of the process of putting downward pressure on prices and offering choice to the public and business community. This will undoubtedly contribute to both.”
Speaking on Friday last, Mr Gregor Alexander, SSE’s Lead Director for Ireland and Finance Director: “Today marks the end of what has been an exciting, and most importantly safe, three year project development journey.
“In mid-April our new CCGT power plant successfully began commercially generating energy for export to Ireland’s Single Electricity Market, concluding more than two years of construction followed by months of commissioning.
“I’m proud to say that the Great Island project has been successfully delivered on budget and to the highest safety and environmental standards in line with SSE’s core values of Safety, Excellence and Teamwork.”
Mr Alexander added: “At SSE we’re proud of the difference we are making to the future of Ireland’s energy supply. The completion of Great Island CCGT brings to over €2 billion the total investment made by SSE in Ireland since 2008 – that investment is creating jobs, sustaining employment, driving competition and greening our economy.”
The commissioning of the new CCGT plant coincides with the retirement of the existing 240MW heavy fuel oil power plant which was first commissioned at Great Island almost 50 years ago in 1967.
SSE’s investment in the new clean gas power plant at Great Island displaces oil with gas, further improving carbon intensity and, reads a company statement, “underpins SSE Airtricity’s heritage as a greener energy provider”.