National electricity grid operator Eirgrid could spend up to €270 million on consultants to advise it on work needed to open up the south coast for offshore wind farms, it has emerged.
The State company, responsible for the network that transmits electricity from power plants to the distribution system that sends it to homes and businesses, advertised recently for specialised offshore services with the Official Journal of the European Union.
Eirgrid’s ad, seeking expressions of interest in each contract, acknowledges that it is difficult to value all the work involved.
“It is estimated that the value over the potential eight-year duration will be in the range of €200 million-€270 million,” the company says.
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Eirgrid is seeking expressions of interest in 21 offshore services contracts, mainly for marine, offshore, civil and electrical engineering, and environmental surveying and advice on procurement.
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The company said in a statement that the purpose was to “mobilise the appropriate expertise and to support additional requirements” for phase two of the State’s plan to develop offshore renewable electricity generation.
The consultants will aid the company in preparing to build two substations off the south coast meant to pave the way for developers to build offshore wind farms in that area. None of the contracts advertised relate to the actual construction of either structure.
According to Eirgrid, the substations are needed to ensure the Republic meets the Government target of building enough offshore wind farms to provide 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity by 2030.
Most of this will come from projects already planned for the Irish Sea off the Dublin and Wicklow coasts.
However, a further 700MW is needed to hit the target, and that is likely to come from the waters off counties Cork and Waterford, where Eirgrid intends to build the substations.
Government wants Eirgrid to design build the two substations, connection points, cables and landfall points to speed up development off the south coast, helping the State to meet renewable targets.
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They will facilitate private businesses that want to construct wind farms off the south coast and succeed in getting electricity supply deals through the State’s renewable energy support scheme.
The substations, built on offshore platforms, will take in all the electricity that wind farms in the region generate, transmit it to a second set of onshore substations, which will then send the power on to the national grid. They will be capable of handling more power than 700MW to allow for future development.
“Eirgrid will be engaging with communities and all relevant stakeholders on this in the coming months as these projects progress,” the company said.
Its statement added that the tenders covered five years, with an option to extend for a further three.
Eirgrid is in talks about funding this with the Department of the Environment and the Commission for Regulation of Utilities, which oversees the electricity supply industry.
Private developers in the Irish Sea plan to build the infrastructure needed to transmit electricity from their wind farms to the grid themselves, but will ultimately transfer the ownership of this to Eirgrid.