The people of Ireland hang their hat on living in one of the most environmentally friendly countries in the entire world. Since the year 2005, CO2 emissions have fallen by 19% with the contribution of renewable energy helping avoid 3.9 tons of C02 saving close to €426M in fossil fuel emissions. The Irish use many different channels to generate renewable energy, including wind, solar, landfill, and biomass materials.

Kilknenny wind farm
Kilknenny wind farm

Driving through the countryside, I was able to see the wind farm in Clare, and the massive structures with their long-finned wings was quite a sight to see. Along with windmills, solar panels can be viewed on many houses, especially in the eco-village at which we stayed in Cloughjordan. These solar panels are extremely expensive to build, and a full solar farm could “make a net profit of a little over €500,000 a year,” but that number is inflated as it is taking into account selling the solar power at a rate much higher than what is currently the market price.

In a country that lacks consistent sun however, providing reliable solar energy can prove to be a challenge. This is where the famous turf comes into play. Naturally occurring over thousands of years, bogs can be dug up into a substance the Irish have coined as “turf” or “peat.” It is not particularly a clean source of energy, but can be used to cook and heat homes when burned. The eco-village in Cloughjordan solved the issues of solar panels by importing large piles of leftover woods chips to be burned which provided enough energy for the homes which lacked solar panels, or to the houses at which the panels did not work. One of the guys who worked at the eco-village, told us about a time when “biking to supply power” was not uncommon and was generally “an unpleasant experience.”

I was alarmed at the nonexistence of air conditioning systems and at the very least a simple fan. I had woken up many times in sweats as the hostels can become quite hot when multiple people are living in same room and it was confusing that they would not have something to combat this. However, during one the first few days that we were here, it was said that day “was going to be the hottest of the year,” and it was only 85 degrees outside. One woman told me at a bar in Westport that they “really have no need for them, most of the year is chilly”

With some newfound awareness of the issues regarding energy, I will be taking back some of the practices to hopefully apply to my everyday life in America.

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