French energy firm EDF Renewables is to develop two significant offshore floating wind energy farms in Irish waters, replacing Shell, which pulled out of the schemes last year.
The company will partner with Cork-based offshore energy group Simply Blue, which had been looking for a new partner for the Western Star and Emerald projects after the oil major withdrew from the Irish renewables sector. The decision was considered a major blow to Ireland’s ambition to develop seven gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030.
Shell had brokered a deal with Simply Blue – taking a 51 per cent share – in 2021 as part of a huge investment in the Western Star and Emerald projects off the Clare and Cork coasts respectively.
Shell declined to answer why it was pulling out of Ireland, but industry sources said at the time that it was a further sign of mounting “frustration” on the part of overseas investors at delays in the establishment of the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority.
On Wednesday, EDF announced that it would replace Shell as Simply Blue’s development partners, subject to approval by Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
The French company said in a statement that it would work to progress the 50:50 joint venture to develop more than 2GW of floating wind energy. Combined, the two projects would have the capacity to generate low-carbon electricity for two million homes, it said.
“Emerald and Western Star will complement our flagship, fixed-bottom foundation Codling Wind Park development off the east coast of Ireland, diversifying our offshore portfolio in Ireland and strengthening our position as a key player in the Irish and UK offshore markets,” said Matthieu Hue, chief executive of EDF’s Irish and UK arm.
EDF’s director of offshore and Ireland, Ryanne Burges, said: “Western Star and Emerald add to EDF Renewables UK and Ireland’s growing portfolio of offshore wind projects. This includes the operational Blyth and Teesside offshore wind farms in England; Neart na Gaoithe, which is currently under construction off the coast of Scotland; and Codling Wind Park, which was recently successful in Ireland’s first-ever offshore wind energy auction.”
Apart from its offshore projects, EDF also acquired Irish company Wexford Solar in 2020, which included eight projects in Ireland with more than 100 megawatts (MW) of capacity.
It began operating its first three solar farms – located in Wexford and Kilkenny with a combined capacity of 17MW – in late March, the first utility-scale solar farms to be developed under the Government’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme and connected to the national grid.
Simply Blue Group chief executive Sam Roch-Perks said EDF was a major player in energy transition worldwide and complemented the group’s expertise in floating offshore wind.