Case Study Munster Joinery Economics Essay

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Munster Joinery is Ireland's largest manufacturer of energy efficient windows. It is located three miles from my house in Ireland and I spend summers working there during my undergrad. In 2006 Munster Joinery undertook a detailed review of energy costs and the options that were available in decreasing their energy bill. At this time the annual energy usage was 26 GW hours. This review was primarily driven by the increasing energy costs and the introduction of carbon taxes in Ireland. As a result of this review the company contacted Wind Energy Direct, a company based in Limerick in Ireland that installs turbines on customer's industrial sites by means of a turnkey service. Due to the geographical position of the plant in a valley and the high winds that pass through that valley wind power was the logical choice for a renewable energy resource. Wind Direct operate, maintain and have full ownership of the wind turbines as well as financing the project. Wind Direct then sell the electricity generated to the company at a discounted rate. Wind Direct then under took a feasibility study, wind analysis study and both sides proceed with the planning application. As part of this planning application a grid application had to be applied for to the Electricity Supply Board of Ireland and was successfully granted in 2008 but due to a decision by the Commission of Energy Regulation a gate or connection application will not be required by for nearly all new auto production projects.

Two Enercon E82 2MW wind turbines were installed providing 5 GWh per annum and giving Munster Joinery with 30% of their energy needs. A wound rotor synchronous generator is used with a max speed of 19.5 rounds per minute. The E82 2MW wind turbine is designed for medium wind speeds and it has an 82m rotor diameter with a hub height between 78m and 108m. The output is controlled by variable speed. This means that max operating efficiency can be achieved without operating loads increasing in all loads. This also means the quality of the excess power fed into the national grid is very good with a connection voltage of 400V. The impact of the distributed generation on the local grid should not be great. At the point of common coupling there is already a strong grid in place that services that plant and two towns within 2 mile radius of the plant. I have not been able to find any requirement for the reinforcement of the existing local grid from the Electricity Supply Board. The plant operates from 08:00 to 17:00 Monday to Friday so excess capacity is only available at off peak times which is not of great benefit to the local grid. In an ideal situation the average power flow and losses through the lines is reduced and power with proper location of the distributed generation. In this case the location of the distributed generation is not the optimal distance from the substation meaning losses in the line are not kept to a minimum. No storage device was integrated into the design that would allow supply to the plant during times of low or no winds. This means that the capacity factor of the grid has to remain the same. An added benefit of the wind turbines is that they allowed the avoidance of a network upgrade that would have been needed if the plant increased in size.

The foundations required for each wind turbine required approximately 900m3 of earth to be removed. The size of the foundation was 16.8m by 2.85m and required 426m3 of c30/37 concrete with 36 tonnes of steel reinforcement. Once complete they required a further 250m3 of backfill material. The wind turbines where placed within the factory plant which reduced transmission costs. The turbines are not visible from a long distance due the geographical surroundings of the plant. Thus the environmental impact is kept to a minimum.

Munster Joinery now has the largest auto production project in the country on a commercial plant; they are now capable of selling excess capacity back into the national grid. Wind Energy stated that the two wind turbines will reduce the carbon emissions of the plant by 9,000 tonnes per year. The total cost of the project was €6 million; this includes all construction costs of the wind turbines, planning and material costs. Wind Direct estimated that the energy savings to Munster joinery would be over €1 million over the next five years. In recognition of the projects as a demonstration of what technology is capable of in reducing energy to all Irish businesses the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Recourses awarded a grant of €1 million to the project.

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