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.

Voices of Dissent

"From an engineering and economic standpoint it is ludicrous to pump the power under the Irish Sea. The capital costs are enormous but the environmental cost is also enormous on a project like this.

"However, most importantly, under EU regulations all wind energy projects should be properly assessed allowing for public participation and access to the proposals but all of this has been bypassed.

"That is not fair for the people involved."

The Irish government says the scheme is a practical way to use Ireland's blustery weather to its advantage.

"Ireland has the potential to generate far more wind energy than we could consume domestically," Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Pat Rabbitte said.

Ireland and Britain will now analyze the costs and benefits of proposals before potentially signing an inter-government agreement in 2014.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013