Move to fast track offshore wind projects to reduce electricity prices, says Ryan

New rules to bring Ireland closer to energy independence and provide certainty for developers

Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan (left) speaks to senior geologist Eoin MacCraith of the Geological Survey of Ireland on board a GSI vessel, the RV Mallet, in Dún Laoghaire Harbour on Monday. Photograph: Kevin O’Sullivan

A new consenting system for major offshore wind developments will provide certainty for developers while reducing electricity prices and reliance on fossil fuels over coming decades, according to Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The new maritime regulation regime is being introduced in an attempt to fast track offshore wind projects deploying fixed and floating turbines, while increasing national energy security, he said.

The regime is backed by robust planning and the highest environmental stands, which should also provide reassurance to coastal communities, Mr Ryan said.

Combined with dedicated offshore renewable energy auctions, where the cheapest power supplies would get contracts, it would ensure lower electricity prices, and “the more we build, the cheaper this becomes”.


Mr Ryan said on an interim basis will issue maritime area consents (MACs) to renewable energy developers who meet relevant assessment criteria to be considered in the planning system – applications open on April 25th.

Developers must have a MAC with completed environmental assessments to make an application for permission to An Bord Pleanála. A total of 5 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind is planned for before 2030 – enough to supply power to 5 million homes.

Mr Ryan will assess MAC applicants in key areas including financial and technical competency. This will ensure only the most viable offshore projects will have opportunity to apply for permission, thus streamlining the process, he said. The first consents are likely to be issued later this year.

Leading producer

Ireland's maritime area is seven times the size of its landmass. That, along with extensive wind resources and its location at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, made the potential for offshore wind energy enormous, he said, and would enable the country to become a leading producer of wind energy in Europe.

Wind industry representatives have, however, highlighted uncertainties with planning, causing delays on timelines for rollout of projects. But the Minister insisted the changes provided certainty. “With one of windiest locations in the world ... building out starts today,” Mr Ryan said.

Eirgrid had been given a key job, to work out how this renewable resource would be connected to the national grid, and converted to green hydrogen with a view to exporting the gas and overcoming any intermittency with wind. This with further interconnectors to UK and France, and in time with other countries, would provide further reassurance.

Speaking on board the Geological Survey of Ireland vessel, the RV Mallet, Mr Ryan said: "Today marks a tangible milestone in our journey towards 80 per cent renewable electricity by 2030 ... The door is now open for a number of developers to progress their offshore wind energy projects. This is an opportunity to switch away from fossil fuels, to put it up to Mr Putin, saying we are not going to use your gas in the future; we have our own supply."

He added: “The development of our offshore wind energy capacity will lessen, and eventually eradicate our dependence on imported fossil fuels, and bring an unprecedented reduction in CO2 emissions.”

The MAC regime is provided for under the recently-enacted Maritime Area Planning Act. A new agency, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority is due to take over in early 2023. In the interim, the Minister has powers to assess the first batch of MAC applications from a set of seven qualified offshore renewable energy projects, classified as "relevant projects".

With capacity for 3GW using fixed turbines, these are:

– Oriel Wind Park off Dundalk

– Two RWE projects at Bray and Kish Banks off Dublin

– Two Codling Wind Park projects off Co Wicklow

– Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta (FST) at Skerd Rocks off Connemara, Co Galway

– North Irish Sea Array Ltd at North Irish Sea Array

A total of 57 developers have indicated an interest in Irish offshore wind development.

Mr Ryan confirmed hundreds of millions of euros would need to be invested in Irish ports, to facilitate maintenance and deployment of projects as well as fabrication of turbine technology from 2026 on.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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