Interview with Dr. Eddie O'Connor of Mainstream Renewable Power

4 minutes read

Mainstream Renewable Power is Ireland’s own leading wind and solar power developer. It was founded in 2008 by Doctor Eddie O’Connor, who previously was founder and CEO of Airtricity. Mainstream is active in eight countries and has over 21,000 MW of wind and solar farms in development. Currently it is building six wind and solar farms in Ireland, South Africa, Canada, and Chile. Mainstream is proud to declare that “Innovation is in our DNA”. Mainstream employs over 180 people and its ever-expanding roster of global projects means that it needs to find skilled staff to deliver the end-products.

Dr O’Connor is also the originator of the Supergrid concept – the ambitious plan to connect all of Europe’s national grids up together to supply renewable, environmentally-friendly power to the whole continent. See here:

Mainstream is also behind the ambitious Energy Bridge: this is the plan, outlined in detail here to use Ireland’s wind resource, particularly offshore wind to power the UK (and Ireland too – but Energy Bridge estimates the resource to be 19 times the energy the Emerald Isle needs). It would use high voltage DC underground/undersea cables, so as not to disfigure the landscape.

GreenJobs Blog has an exclusive interview with Dr O’Connor about the employment aspects of his plans.

Knockaneden wind farm, Ireland Photo: Mainstream Renewable Power
Knockaneden wind farm, Ireland
Photo: Mainstream Renewable Power

GJB: “What are the employment prospects of Mainstream’s projects? What sort of skill levels will be required?”

Dr O’Connor: “We estimate that there will be 10-40,000 jobs created in Ireland. These will be all kinds of skill levels, from construction jobs, to long-term skilled employment in operations and maintenance.”

Dr O’Connor wants to bring renewables manufacturing to Ireland, to produce the myriad products in the supply chain, rather than have them manufactured in other countries and simply be installed and run in Ireland. He continues, “I see these jobs as supplying the offshore needs of the industry indefinitely, or at least until the transition to sustainability is achieved, which will take another forty or fifty years.” This would bring 7 billion Euros into the Irish economy, according to a conference held in Tullamore in April of this year, attended by leading renewable manufacturers.

GJB: “What do you expect the timesecale of this project to be?”

Dr O’Connor: “We are connecting the first 1200 MW in 2018 and it will continue from there. Ireland and the UK will be at the epicentre of Europe’s generation needs, which will largely come from the sea. So those nations will end up supplying most of power-hungry Europe’s electricity requirements.”

Dr O’Connor then talked about the longevity of wind turbines and how it was really only the blades that needed replacement.

The laminar design of turbine blades will absorb structural fatigue and probably exceed their design life of 25 years.

“We built our first wind farm in Ireland in 1992 and 21 years later it’s still going strong, still bashing out the megawatts, and will still be there when you and I are pushing up daisies!”

GJB: “Let’s hope that’s a very long time in the future!”

Mainstream are big players in South Africa and China, and have projects in Canada and Chile, as well as a smaller presence in the USA.

In Construction: Jeffreys Bay wind farm (138MW), South Africa Photo: Jeffreys Bay and South Africa Build
In Construction: Jeffreys Bay wind farm (138MW), South
Africa Photo: Jeffreys Bay and South Africa Build

Dr O’Connor concluded, “I’m a committed environmentalist. That’s why I am doing this. I could have retired and become the world’s best worst golfer. That’s why I do what I do, to bring about a transformation in the way electricity is made.”

Dr O’Connor believes that the whole of Europe could be powered by renewables, achieving the carbon reduction that is necessary to avoid the worst effects of climate change. It is a desirable vision and one which puts Ireland and the UK at its centre rather than the periphery.

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