Major players in the oil and gas sector, including Shell, have expressed an interest in the €100 million sale of a wind farm project jointly owned by a company linked to property developer Johnny Ronan.
Sources close to the project said the vendors of Codling Bank, a 1.1-gigawatt offshore wind farm, were experiencing such a level of interest in the project that they were considering another round of bids.
The ESB is among the parties already facing off in what was to be the final round of the bidding for the project, but there had been renewed interest in the scheme since the Government announced its climate action plan.
The plan, industry sources said, has a renewed emphasis on offshore wind energy, which has traditionally been neglected by the Irish renewables industry as previous governments declined to put a subsidy scheme in place.
Alongside the ESB, major utilities such as French multinational Engie, British company EDF Energy and German utility EON are said to be in the mix for the project. The interest from the oil and gas sector comes as that industry seeks to diversify from its original platforms and instead target growth in renewables.
Mr Ronan's interest in the wind farm is held through a company called Hazel Shore Limited, which holds 50 per cent of the shareholding in Codling Holdings, the development vehicle. Other shareholders in Hazel Shore include members of Mr Ronan's family, as well as his one-time partner in boom-era property development company Treasury Holdings, Richard Barrett.
A source close to the company insisted that the payday for the original investors would be limited
Paddy Teahon, former secretary general at the Department of the Taoiseach, is a director of Hazel Shore. Mr Teahon is a long-time advocate of the offshore wind sector, and is now the chairman of the National Offshore Wind association of Ireland (NOW Ireland).
A source close to the company insisted that the payday for the original investors would be limited, despite the possibility of the ultimate price tag edging over the €100 million mark. The project, which was a joint venture with Norwegian company Fred Olsen Renewables, would have spent "tens of millions" on seabed surveys, as well as research into the impact of the project on marine and seabird populations.
The successful bidder for the Codling Bank project, which would see hundreds of wind turbines erected in the Irish Sea, would have to spend hundreds of millions delivering the wind farm.
Sources said that there is an uptick in interest in the Irish offshore sector in general. While there are few projects with planning permission, a new consenting regime is expected by the industry. Sites off the west and south coasts are being surveyed, sources said, with one potential avenue being the supply of “clean” electricity to data centres on those coastlines.