August 16th 2021
Our speaker today is Frank Bannister on Cyber Security
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Aug 23rd President Alexander Kopf, Rotary Fellowships and Action Groups
Aug 30th Return to the Grand Canal?
Sep 6th Business Meeting
Sep 12th Annual Duck Race on River Dodder at Milltown.
President Alexander was in the Chair last week. He began by welcoming back Eamonn Allen and expressed condolences on behalf of the club on the passing of his father.
Visitors and Apologies
We had 18 members at the meeting. Tony McCourt gave apologies for Mary O'Rafferty, Patrick White, Tom O'Neill, Kenneth Carroll and David Horkan, as well as from 1 regular guest Marie Mueller
Bernadette Mulvey welcomed guests to the meeting: Vasily Ogievsky, (soon to be inducted as a member) Thomas Molloy and Cormac Trant
Rotary Rangers’ Schedule
Aug 17th Greystones To Kilcoole & return
Aug 24th Lough Brays (2), Glencree Valley
Aug 31st Carraig Gollergan, Shankill.
Thought for the day
Tony McCourt gave the thought for the day. He noted that hopefully we were beginning to get control of COVID – Ireland has 75% of vaccinations done and is starting to donate to other countries. In this context he cited the IPCC Climate report, which was published that day, and encouraged us to focus on what the UN is calling a “code red for humanity.” Rotary can play a big role in this and must rise to the challenge.
President Alexander, returned from his holiday in Germany, had joined a Munich Rotary meeting during his time there and reported that some of the members of that club had been affected by the floods and showed pictures. He explained it was absolute devastation – the type you see in warzones. President Alexander also announced he had sent a congratulatory note to the London Club on their celebration. He had some further good news, that our club would be having its first “in person” meeting in 18 months on 30 August – details to follow. He has also nominated Seamus Parle to be District Governor in 2024.
Members wishing to speak
Alan Davidson announced he had received the “Stop Plastic Soup” banner from the Amsterdam club and looked forward to showing it to members at future meetings.
Roger Owens made the Club aware that Frank Bannister had had a letter published in the Financial Times.
Eamonn Allen, on behalf of his family, expressed his thanks to the Club for the messages of support on the passing of his father.
Last Week’s Meeting
President Alan introduced our own Eamonn Allen to speak on “Darkness to Light, a brief history of the ESB”
Eamonn began with a brief historical context of the 1920s in Ireland:
Between 1922-25 the Irish Government had established a viable political and administrative system. (Administrative and legal services, new police force, asserting and maintaining control of the army, restoring country to conditions of peace and prosperity) It had been in a desperate predicament after the War of Independence and the Civil War that followed. Cabinet Ministers appointed were very young, and included amongst them 6 lawyers, 3 from PO, 2 journalists, 2 University Professors.Their aim was to gain International recognition and standing for the newly created state It was committed to living within it’s means, and were fiscally prudent with a default policy of “laissez faire“ and policy of non intervention in the market.
From a financial perspective:
There was a heavy financial burden between 1922-24 with compensation payments for damage to property (£6m) and expanded cost of the Army (£14.45m). It inherited debts incurred from War of Independence under Article 3 of the Treaty (A loan was advanced by British Government, repayable over 60 years).Under article 5 of the Treaty, Irish Government was required to pay a fair and equitable share of UK Public Debt and cost of war pensions. (Renegotiated in 1926) The State, by raising a Bond loan to finance buy back of lands from landlords (30% of which was still outstanding), had a reduced ability to borrow. The Government only wanted to raise borrowing domestically.
In this context the Government needed to demonstrate that independence could be a viable economic reality. It also needed a way to improve agriculture. Something big and dramatic was needed.
The Initial concept to harness the Shannon for electricity generation was developed by Tom McLoughlin, an Irish Engineer working for Siemens Schubert in Germany, and focused on project feasibility and costings. He visited Ireland in Dec ’23 and showed an outline to the Taoiseach and others. A White paper was published in March ’24 with full backing of Siemens Schukert. Detailed proposals were delivered by Sept ’24. Patrick McGilligan, Minister responsible hired International experts to validate proposals and sought international advice on how a modern Electricity service should be organised. In August ’25, a fixed price contract was signed for £5.2m, with Siemens Schukert (20% of Annual State Budget) to be delivered in 3.5 years.
Some construction facts:
• 4,000 Irish and 1,000 German men worked on the site.
All equipment needed for construction was shipped from Germany to docks in Limerick.
• A new railway system was built from the docks to the new construction site (62 miles long, with 130 locomotives, & 1,800+ wagons)
• It carried large and small plant (30,000 tons) and materials (23,000 m' timber, 2,670 tons reinforcing steel for concrete, 65,000 tons of cement, 10,100 tons fuel oil, 110,000 tons coal, 700 tons explosives) to and within the site.
• The giant machines used carve out the new water race were adapted coal escavators (7.5 million cubic metres of earth and 1.25 million cubic metres of rock were excavated).
• As works progressed towards conclusion visitors were invited to travel by train from Limerick City to see the works.
• The railway was eventually de-commissioned in the 60’s, being used only once a year during station maintenance.
Ardnacrusha was one of the largest engineering works of it’s day. It was enough power generated to supply all the State’s needs for the next 10 years. 86MW generated by 4 turbines and was recognised by IEEE International milestone award & ASCE International landmark award. The Hoover Dam in the US was modelled on this concept.
Incorporated into new ESB Utility, the first National Electricity System in the world to integrate all components of electricity supply chain covering Generation, Transmission, Distribution, Marketing and Sales. All existing generators/suppliers (Local Authorities, Private enterprise) were taken over by new Utility.
President Alexander asked the first question: where did all the earth/dug up rocks go? Eamonn explained that the embankments – which had to be secure – were comprised of some of these. He has no idea where the rest went – noting no mounds were still in existence!
Roger Owens asked whether the original turbines were still in use. 3 of the turbines have been replaced, leaving one in still in use. While there is an enormous effort/cost of replacing them- they have an impressively long lifespan.
Kevin McAnallan noted nothing went to Donegal. Eamonn explained there had been an effort in the 1930s to engage with the north about how to utilise this but it didnt go anywhere. Kevin commented that in may have been 1965 in rural parts of Tyrone before distribution arrived. Kevin further commented that it must have been a political worry to have invested so much in such a project. Eamonn replied that the government at the time looked at other countries - they couldn’t use British technology – it was too expensive. They drove a hard bargain and negotiated a fixed price – meaning S did this at a loss, but was a good showcase for other projects.
Tony Keegan commented on an earlier point that Ireland did eventually have their obligations to UK debt cancelled – the only country in EU to not take on debt of former empire country.
Ted Corcoran asked about the plan to build the line from Cork to France. Eamonn was sure it would happen and would offer not only the opportunity to import power, but also to export it given Ireland’s wind farm plans.
Paul Martin reminisced of a family pub in Offaly that didn’t get it until the 1950s, before asking about the wind output and whether it would substantial. He also asked whether other parts of the Shannon could be used. Eamonn responded that the wind output would be substantial but that you wouldn’t get much more from the Shannon. It is all about drop and volume of water – it would be possible if there were other drops but in flat country there not many falls. Switzerland by comparison generates enormous amount from this.
Frank Bannister noted the original period was meant to last 10 years and asked whether demand in Ireland out ran this projection. What is the current output? Eamonn responded that it did infact meet projections. Output is 5.5 GW - 1/3 from wind farms; coal and gas other part. Gas is independently owned with a 20 year life.
Jono Pimm noted the railway was small and the most terrifying experience of his life was going down the lochs. Eamonn noted the big concern about fisheries and how they pass. ESB has a duty to monitor this and provide other ways for fish to pass. Jono is the only person Eamon has met who has used these.
Paul Martin asked about solar energy and its efficiency/cost effectiveness. Eamonn explained that there was a time when the ESB was looking for roof space and would offer electricity at discounted prices.
Ted Corcoran asked about impacts on flooding and pressure. Eamonn noted there is no difference to water levels, but it wouldn’t improve defence against flooding as lots of rain all ends up in the catchment.
Kevin McAnallan asked about wind variability. Eamonn noted onshore farms would be operational 1/3 of the time in the best spot and this would be much more off shore.
President Alexander thanked Eamonn for such an interesting talk and encouraged other members to consider presenting on topics that interests them.