The ESB plans to start manufacturing turbines for offshore wind farms at its Moneypoint power station in west Clare.
An Bord Pleanála confirmed the State energy group is engaging with it pre-application consultation with the board for the planned fabrication facility for the construction and assembly of floating offshore wind turbines.
The production facility for the offshore wind-turbines is part of the ESB’s multibillion-euro Green Atlantic @ Moneypoint programme that envisages transforming the power station site into a green energy hub.
Pre-application consultation is required under the Government’s Strategic Infrastructure Development system, and is a prelude to formal plans being lodged with An Bord Pleanála. It runs until June 20th.
However, it is likely that formal plans for the offshore wind turbine production facility won’t be put before the appeals board for another two years, with a spokesman for the ESB confirming on Thursday that the ESB is targeting the first quarter of 2024 for submission of a planning application.
The plan, he said, was to have the new facility ready by the end of 2026 or the beginning of the following year, subject to a successful consenting and environmental licensing outcome.
“Moneypoint will become a centre for the construction and deployment of floating wind,” he said. “A deep-water access point already exists at the site, making it an ideal staging ground for the construction of wind farm components.”
He said the wind farm manufacturing plant would create “a significant number of direct jobs” in the region.
“As with any such large-scale project, the local economy will benefit significantly,” he said. The would help make the Shannon estuary a focal point for the offshore wind industry in Europe.
For now, the coal-burning Moneypoint power station continues to generate electricity, responding to system demand in line with electricity market requirements. The spokesman said it had been “called on to run more frequently in 2021 due to the non-availability of gas plant from other market participants and some extended periods of low wind on the Irish system”.
Under ESB’s strategy and the national Climate Action Plan, electricity generation from coal at Moneypoint is due to cease by 2025.
Doubt over date
Speaking in the Dáil, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar held open the prospect that the date might be put back.
Responding to Clare TD Michael McNamara, he said: “It is not our intention to close Moneypoint or Tarbert until we are ready to do so. I don’t like the fact that we are burning coal in Moneypoint. I don’t like the fact we are burning oil in Tarbert, but we do actually need to do so, and we may need to do so for many years to come.
“Those plants will not be decommissioned until we are confident that we are able to replace them with secure supply and secure renewables and that might take a bit of time.”
The ESB spokesman said that, in parallel to the Green Atlantic @ Moneypoint plans, “we will consider how Moneypoint might provide backup power to contribute to Ireland’s security of supply should the electricity system require it”.