EDF and Fred Olsen choose Wicklow Port for wind farm base

Energy giants to invest estimated €15m in port in a move that will create 115 jobs

Wicklow County Council cathaoirleach Cllr Shay Cullen with Codling Wind Farm project manager Arno Verbeek at Wicklow Port on Friday.  Photograph: Julien Behal

Wicklow County Council cathaoirleach Cllr Shay Cullen with Codling Wind Farm project manager Arno Verbeek at Wicklow Port on Friday. Photograph: Julien Behal

 

Ireland’s biggest wind farm could begin generating electricity by 2027 but its developers warn that the planning process must be accelerated to ensure the Republic meets climate targets.

European energy giants EDF and Fred Olsen are jointly investing at least €2 billion in Codling Wind Park, an offshore energy plant in the Irish Sea that could supply electricity for up to 1.2 million homes.

Arno Verbeek, Codling’s project director, predicted on Friday that if the entire planning process runs to schedule, the wind farm could begin generating electricity in 2027-2028.

He was speaking after Codling Wind Park confirmed that it has chosen Wicklow Port as its operations and maintenance base in a move that will create 115 jobs locally. Industry sources estimate the investment needed at €15 million.

However, Mr Verbeek said he shared the wider industry’s view that the State needs to speed up its planning process if it is to hit its target of building enough offshore wind power to generate 5,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity, close to the Republic’s current peak demand.

“To put it simply, things need to move a lot quicker from now if we are to achieve those very, very ambitious targets of 5,000MW by 2030,” Mr Verbeek warned.

This applies to the offshore and onshore planning procedures, as well as to reinforcing the national electricity grid to give it the capacity to take on thousands of megawatt hours of power from the Irish Sea.

Mr Verbeek noted that national grid operator, State company EirGrid, had plans to boost its network along the east coast, where most wind farms are planned. But he forecast EirGrid would face resistance from local communities when it came to doing the work and stressed it would need the resources to complete it.

“To get through all this planning takes a lot of effort and a lot of support from the local communities,” Mr Verbeek noted.

Planning Bill

He welcomed the fact that the Oireachtas is likely to pass the Maritime Area Planning Bill, meant to modernise and regulate offshore development, by the end of the year.

This will allow Codling and other developments to get marine area consents needed to press ahead with their plans next year.

After that they must get grid connection agreements from EirGrid. These will allow them bid to supply electricity at agreed prices through the State’s Renewable Energy Support Scheme auction, due to be held in the closing months of 2022 or early the following year.

Once this has been completed, projects such as Codling will have to apply to An Bord Pleanála for permission. Processing that could take 18 weeks, though opponents could challenge any decision in the courts.

Mr Verbeek’s timing for Codling’s completion is dependent on all of this happening in sequence and on time.

The jobs in Wicklow will include 75 full-time maintenance staff, technicians, engineers and administrators, as well as 40 builders. Construction could start in 2025.

Codling has not said how much it will invest in its facilities at the port, but industry sources calculate the figure will be about €15 million.

Mr Verbeek said momentum had built behind the project in the last year. “We are eager to continue to make progress,” he added.

Cllr Shay Cullen, cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, dubbed the news a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for the area.

Codling Wind Park will be located in a stretch of the Irish Sea from Greystones to Wicklow town. It will have the capacity to generate up to 1,500MW of electricity.

It is a joint venture between EDF Renewables, part of Électricité de France, one of Europe’s biggest power generators, and Fred Olsen Renewables, the leading Norwegian green energy developer.