Game-changing moment for Silvermines Hydro gets critical EU status

 

The Silvermines hydro-electric station is set to take its most critical step to date when it is ratified as a ‘Project of Common Interest’ next month by the European Parliament which will be a game-changer.

Monday January 20 2020: The Silvermines hydro-electric station is set to take its most critical
step to date when it is ratified as a ‘Project of Common Interest’ next month by the European
Parliament. The planned 360MW hydro-electricity plant is one of only three Irish electricity
projects included in the 151 strong list of Projects of Special Interest (PCI) list compiled by the
European Commission last November and will now go before parliament for ratification next
month. With a commitment in Ireland’s Climate Action Plan to support all PCI projects, the
inclusion of Silvermines Hydro, which has the capacity to generate electricity for 200,000
homes, on the PCI list was essential for the project, its CEO and founder Darren Quinn says.
“Inclusion on the PCI list underpins this project and really takes us to a whole new level of
certainty,” he said. “The enthusiasm and interest for the project at European level has been
hugely reassuring and PCI status ultimately states that the project is not just of Irish but
European importance when it comes to meeting climate change targets. “This is very
significant validation of our Silvermines Project. Strict criteria are required for PCI status and
we tick all the right boxes. It’s about security of supply, about increasing competition on energy
markets by offering alternatives to consumers and about contributing to the sustainability
objective by supporting renewable generation. It’s essentially about being a major renewable
infrastructure project and large grid storage and Silvermines Hydro is that.” Critically, PCI
status streamlines permit granting procedures as it sets a time limit for planning permissions
to be approved. It also secures an improved, faster and better streamlined environmental
assessment process, puts a procedure in place that allows for the allocation of investment
(construction) costs among Member States benefiting from the PCI and opens the possibility
for receiving financial assistance under the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) in the form of
grants and innovative financial instruments.

The inclusion of the project on the EC’s PCI list was welcomed by Dáil Deputy Alan Kelly, who
as Minister for the Environment in 2016 gave critical support for the project when he included
it in the government’s White Paper for Energy. “PCI status is a game-changer for the project.
The first critical step was to get it into the White Paper, which I was delighted to make happen
as Minister for the Environment as I have been fully committed and proud to work on this
project from the moment Darren Quinn came into my office in 2015. Getting PCI status then

became the key objective, not least after the Climate Change Action Plan committed to support
all PCI projects. I have to congratulate the development team at Silvermines Hydro on how
they have gone about this. This project is going to put not just Silvermines but Tipperary on
the map as a huge contributor to the decarbonization of our country as it has the capacity to
provide green electricity to 200,000 homes. “It’s also a project that’s going to bring a huge
amount of investment and jobs during the four-year construction phase and long-term job
creation afterwards. It’s a project we are extremely proud of and one I am looking forward to
continue supporting to make sure it goes the distance and plants a very important flag for
Tipperary as a leader in the fight against climate change.”
Silvermines Hydro will generate electricity from a storage-based technology. Water from a
higher elevation reservoir will be released to a lower reservoir, flowing through giant turbines
and generating electricity in the process. The water is pumped from a lower reservoir to the
higher reservoir at night or during low electricity demand periods. The lower reservoir already
exists at the site by way of an open-cast mine flooded to a depth of some 70m at the foot of
the Silvermines Mountains. A cost-benefit analysis for the project has demonstrated significant
societal benefits to Tipperary and Ireland.

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