Floating wind energy can make Ireland ‘renewable superpower’

Wind Energy Ireland calls for devices in our waters to kickstart ‘new industrial sector’

Floating wind energy can transform Ireland into "a European renewable energy superpower" if the right policies are pursued to enable industry to start building floating wind farms in the coming decade, according to Wind Energy Ireland (WEI).

This is the central finding of its report published on Friday which sets out how floating wind farms can make Ireland a world leader in producing renewable energy and fighting climate change – provided the Government facilitates key moves by 2025. This includes having the first dedicated floating wind auction and strategic investment to ensure ports are ready to build and maintain floating wind farms.

The programme for government contains a target for 5,000MW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and, in the long-term, 30,000MW.

While most of the 2030 target will be delivered through existing fixed-bottom turbine technology, a proactive approach from Government “is needed to ensure floating wind turbines are in the water before the end of the decade”, it finds.


Unlocking potential

"This would unlock our floating wind potential and kickstart an entirely new industrial sector for Ireland," predicted WEI chief executive Noel Cunniffe.

The report recommends the Maritime Area Planning Bill be amended to enable floating wind energy projects to carry out environmental surveys outside the 12 nautical mile limit, and calls for floating wind energy to be put at the heart of the national industrial strategy.

EirGrid must ensure their new strategy for grid development strengthens the grid on the western and southern coasts where most floating wind projects will be located, it adds.

“There is enough renewable energy off our southern and western coasts to not only meet Ireland’s needs but to also become a major contributor to decarbonising Europe’s energy supply,” Mr Cunniffe noted. “The first generation of new, fixed-bottom, wind farms on our east coast can provide the launching pad to develop a new floating wind industry in Ireland.”

Mistake made

Most offshore wind farms use “fixed-bottom” turbines but floating platforms secured to the seabed can be deployed at much greater depths.

Floating wind energy can make Ireland a world leader in renewable energy, not only in the form of electricity, but also through production of carbon-free fuels including green hydrogen, said Val Cummins, chairwoman of WEI's floating wind energy committee.

“Twenty years ago, Ireland chose not to develop offshore wind energy, costing us an enormous economic opportunity and cementing our dependence on imported fossil fuels,” she noted.

"We must not make the same mistake a second time. We have choices to make, and now is the time to make them. Ireland has an incredible marine resource, and development of floating wind, co-existing with sustainable fisheries and Marine Protected Areas, is the future," added the managing director of the Emerald Floating Wind project, a joint venture between Shell and Simply Blue.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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