The development of Ireland's first major offshore wind farm has moved a step closer with the announcement that Oriel Wind, the energy group backed by Glen Dimplex founder Martin Naughton, has secured a major investment from Belgium's Parkwind to develop a project off the Co Louth coast.
The Oriel Wind Farm scheme will be the first offshore wind energy project developed in the Irish Sea since the construction of seven wind turbines in the Arklow bank by GE Electricity in 2001, a scheme that was never fully built out.
When fully operational the Oriel scheme will have the potential to generate up to 330 megawatts (MW), enough to power 250,000 homes.
Parkwind, one of Europe's leading wind farm developers, has agreed a significant investment to become a strategic partner in the project. While the size of the investment was not disclosed, the overall cost of the scheme, based Now Ireland figures, could be as high as €600 million.
Offshore wind developers have, up until now, effectively been shut out of the Irish market via the current system of price supports. However, the cost of development of wind energy projects has tumbled faster than forecasters anticipated, as has the list of available sites in Ireland for onshore wind projects.
"In our search for a strategic partner, several international offshore wind players were interested in acquiring a stake in Oriel Wind Farm," said Brian Britton, founder and board member of Oriel Wind Farm.
“Our choice for Parkwind is driven by the strong track record and values the company Parkwind stands for,” he said, noting Parkwind had developed three offshore windfarms off the Belgian coast, which deliver 550 megawatts (MW) to the Belgian market.
Parkwind co-chief executive François Van Leeuw said: “ The challenge and opportunity of realising the first offshore windfarm in Ireland matches perfectly with our entrepreneurial and solution driven company culture.”
The company said it can support the Irish Government in establishing the Irish offshore wind industry, while generating economic activity and employment over the entire lifetime of the project.
In recent years offshore wind has become an important part of the energy mix of the future and main driver in reaching the European targets of sustainable energy.