DUBLIN -- Giant wind turbines in Ireland could supply electricity to the British market by 2017 after Irish and British ministers signed a memorandum of understanding on Thursday.

The plan would see hundreds of turbines, standing up to 591 feet tall, erected in the Irish midlands, mainly on farmland or boggy land.

One of several companies behind the plans, Element Power, hopes to build 750 turbines, in approximately 40 different clusters across five counties.

The electricity generated will be totally separate from the Irish grid and will be transferred by underground cables to Pembroke in Wales.

The company says the wind turbines could save British consumers $11 billion over 15 years when compared to other renewable energy options.

An Element Power spokesman described the agreement as "a significant day," adding: "The next step is an inter-government agreement that will allow the transfer of the power."

But opponents to the scheme have said it would cause lasting environmental damage and fail to deliver the desired economic benefits.

Ireland's representative on the European Platform against Wind Farms, Val Martin, described the understanding as a "leap of faith" by both governments.