Four south coast sites expected for offshore wind development

Micheál Martin underlines Government’s ambition in seeking to accelerate offshore energy

Ireland’s emerging offshore wind sector will need to clear critical hurdles over the next year to ensure momentum into the 2030s, with approval of development sites off the south coast by summer most pressing, Wind Energy Ireland (WEI) chief executive Noel Cunniffe has said.

Minister for Energy Eamon Ryan is due to announce the State’s first area for development, known as a DMAP, on Friday, which is understood to propose four sites off the south coast. This needed to be approved promptly by the Oireachtas, Mr Cunniffe told the annual WEI conference in Dublin on Thursday.

In addition, six fixed-turbine wind farms were expected to go into planning phase within the next three months, he said, with lingering concerns about the State’s ability to process applications in a timely way.

“We are still worried An Bord Pleanála, the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS) and key environmental stakeholders are not ready for the offshore wind energy planning applications which will be on their desks shortly,” he added.


“It should be a national priority to ensure our planning system has the resources and the expertise to properly, fairly and robustly assess these applications in time to get these projects delivered by the end of the decade,” Mr Cunniffe said.

“It is important that the next offshore auction takes place before the end of the year, but also that we know when the subsequent auctions will take place and for what locations,” he said. This tranche of wind farms would boost the economy by €10 billion over 10 years, generate €24 million a year in community benefits, and create over 2,000 construction jobs and 600 permanent jobs.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin underlined the Government’s ambition in seeking to accelerate offshore energy. “We plan to deploy more gigawatts of offshore energy by 2030 than France, Spain or Portugal or Belgium. Only Germany, the Netherlands and Demark plan to deploy more...all of which have larger electricity markets and established offshore wind sectors.”

He accepted there was a need for changes in port policy, noting certain ports would benefit from greater flexibility to enable expansion and attract investment.

With immediate focus on fixed-bottom turbines, there were industry calls at the conference for concrete plans for development of floating wind energy in deeper waters.

IDA Ireland head of sustainability Ian O’Hora said the sector was moving towards “a floating solution” with small projects elsewhere. For Ireland it was eight to 10 years away but “floating is very much ‘a now question’. Fixed allows us turn on the lights sooner.”

Mr Cunniffe said Ireland could become a world leader in floating wind energy. “We need all of the east and south coast fixed-bottom projects to get built. They will build the port infrastructure, the supply-chain and the investor confidence needed to develop floating wind energy. Without these projects the idea that people will invest billions in floating wind farms in a country that has failed in the development of offshore wind energy is ludicrous.”

Sign up for push alerts and have the best news, analysis and comment delivered directly to your phone

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan is Environment and Science Editor and former editor of The Irish Times