Western seaboard has ‘vast potential’ to generate renewable energy

Taoiseach says accelerating scale-up of offshore wind projects would help Ireland address climate change

There is "vast potential and opportunities" for renewable energy development along the western seaboard, which has the highest wind speeds in Europe, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said.

Speaking in Galway on Thursday, he said accelerating scale-up of offshore wind projects with targeted development of its ports would help Ireland address climate change, which "is the most profound and far-reaching threat of our time, with no time to delay".

"The renewable energy opportunity off Ireland's Atlantic coast represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our country to help achieve its climate action targets, significantly contribute to securing energy independence for the EU and assist in balanced regional development in the west of Ireland with the creation of well-paid jobs," Mr Martin told a conference hosted by Galway Harbour Company.

Renewable electricity could not only help deliver emissions reductions, but also provide a more resilient, secure and sustainable Irish energy system for future generations, Mr Martin said.


Ireland has made significant progress towards deployment of renewable electricity, he noted. “Crucially, up to three-quarters of the electricity flowing on the electricity grid at any point in time can now come from variable renewable sources following completion of a ground-breaking project by grid operator EirGrid. But we can, we must and we will do much more.

Green hydrogen

“Given our location at the Atlantic edge of the EU and with a sea area seven times that of our landmass, Ireland has very promising green hydrogen and offshore renewable energy potential.”

The right government policies for climate action and accelerated development of renewable energy infrastructure were essential, he accepted, while increasing the proportion of renewable electricity to up to 80 per cent by 2030 was a key target.

Ireland was drawing up a strategy for development of green hydrogen to be included in the 2023 climate action plan. In the meantime, he said he was pleased to announce Ireland’s first “hydrogen valley”, which was proposing to develop the research, production, distribution and utilisation of indigenous renewable hydrogen gas to be used in transport, industry and within local communities in the greater Galway region.

It was recognised there was a pressing need for Ireland to have the port capacity to exploit the opportunities presented by offshore renewable energy. “A number of ports will be required to provide facilities for the different activities at several locations around the country and at different times for the various phases of the fixed and floating offshore developments.”

Typically this would require both large-scale port infrastructure for project deployment and small-scale port facilities to provide ongoing operation and maintenance services. “It has the potential to maximise the economic benefits at both regional and national levels in terms of job-creation and new SME enterprises in areas such as engineering, fabrication, transport and logistics and other technologies.”

Offshore farms

Renewable energy entrepreneur Eddie O’Connor, the chairman of SuperNode, said 30 gigawatts (GW) envisaged from floating offshore farms was “just for starters” as Ireland had the potential to be “Europe’s powerhouse”, supplying up to 15 per cent of its electricity.

On offshore wind development, he said the west of Ireland could be transformed economically, but Ireland had to pursue investment in the order of €60 billion in generation for 30GW to be realised.

Ireland should become a global grid technology and manufacturing hub including offshore transmission technologies, he said, with technical zones and innovation clusters based in the west of Ireland “to capture the value-added from this enormous resource we have off the west coast”.

While US multinationals might leave the country – though he did not believe they was likely – turning this comparative geographic advantage in generating renewable electricity into a competitive advantage meant “this will never go away”.

GHC chief executive Conor O’Dowd said the west coast of Ireland has the best wind speeds “in all of the EU and the UK”.

“In a world on a path to reducing our reliance on carbon, our offshore wind resources are akin to the discovery of major fuel reserves by other countries in the last century and are a resource we must all work together to exploit,” he added.

For years, Irish governments had been seeking a more balanced form of economic growth, he said.. “For the first time in its history, our region could retain its people with the prospect of high quality, well-paid local employment. It is critical that we work together in our regional and national interest to ensure that this once in a lifetime opportunity is seized upon by our generation for the benefit of generations to come.”

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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