Wind power has overtaken natural gas as Ireland’s top source for electricity generation for a full quarter for the first time.

Electricity from wind turbines provided 43.8pc of the State’s total needs from January to March, compared to 37pc in the same quarter a year ago, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland.

It said natural gas – perennially the main source for generating electricity here – provided 41.8pc of Ireland’s needs in the first quarter of this year.

David Connolly, chief executive of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said the rapid growth in generation from wind turbines still isn’t fast enough to meet the Government’s 2030 goals. These call for 70pc of electricity to come from renewable sources, chiefly wind.

“It is essential, if we are to build on this success, that the next Government prioritises reforming our planning system so we can develop wind energy off our coasts and ensures that the new wind energy guidelines enable us to build the next generation of onshore wind farms,” Mr Connolly said.

“It can take eight to 12 years to develop a wind farm in Ireland. This means that any Government serious about our 2030 targets has, at most, only a couple of years to make the right policy choices,” he said.

Electricity generated by wind turbines in the first quarter totalled 3,390 gigawatt hours (GWh) – equivalent to the average annual consumption of 737,000 homes. Natural gas produced 3,234 GWh.