An Irish-German partnership has moved a step closer to building a €1.5 billion wind farm off the east coast.
German energy giant, Innogy and Irish player, Saorgus, plan to build an offshore wind farm, dubbed Dublin Array, 10km off the east coast and close to the capital, capable of generating enough electricity for up to 600,000 homes.
Innogy confirmed on Wednesday that it has applied to the Department of Planning for a foreshore licence that will allow completion of surveys needed for the project.
The move is a key part of the preparations for building and designing the electricity generating plant.
However, if the department approves the application, this will not amount to permission to proceed with construction.
Saorgus and Innogy intend building the wind farm on 2,440 hectares across the Kish and Bray banks. The plant will include 60 to 100 turbines, which will generate the electricity, along with two cables connecting the northern and southern ends of the area with the mainland.
The proposed wind farm will stretch from a point east of Booterstown in south Dublin to east of Greystones in Co Wicklow. It will have the capacity to generate up to 600 megawatts of electricity.
Innogy’s surveys will cover a larger area in Dublin Bay, taking in the environment, geology, seabed, wind speeds and other factors likely to influence the plant’s design and construction.
Innogy pledged to work closely with fishermen, shipping companies and other marine users, such as sailing clubs, while it is doing the work.
Peter Lefroy, the German group's project manager, said the venture was committed to developing a "meaningful approach to supporting local communities" as required by the Government's renewable energy support scheme.
What will the final bill be?
A statement on Wednesday said that Dublin Array would cost more than €1 billion to build. Earlier this year, Innogy chief operating officer Hans Bünting estimated the final bill at between €1.2 billion and €1.5 billion.
Dublin Array’s developers hope the project will benefit from a new Government support scheme for renewable energy that will guarantee revenues for generators.
The proposed scheme will involve an auction through which those players that provide the cheapest power will get support. This is meant to keep down the cost of providing the aid, as homes and businesses will ultimately pay for it through their electricity bills.
The European Commission will shortly rule on whether or not the scheme breaches state aid rules.
Dublin Array is one of several big generating projects planned for the Irish Sea on the back of an expected surge in demand for electricity. Economic growth and data centres that are mushrooming around the capital are spurring this expansion in demand.