Seven offshore wind farms could begin operating from 2027 under fast-track plan

Planned facilities in Irish Sea and one off west coast would cut fossil fuel dependency

Seven large offshore wind farms with capacity to power three million homes are set to be fast-tracked from this year under a new maritime regulation regime.

As part of a multibillion euro investment programme, Minister for the Environment Eamon Ryan has invited applications from developers of six wind farms proposed for the Irish Sea and one off the west coast.

Under new powers, the first tranche of projects using fixed turbines will be able to obtain consents from the Minister, enabling them to go directly to An Bord Pleanála for consideration.

Provided they meet planning, environmental and financial requirements, it brings the prospect of beginning to generate power from 2027 – supplying three gigawatts (GW) of renewable power to the grid.

The Irish Sea projects are Oriel Wind Park off Co Louth; two wind farms proposed by RWE at Bray and Kish Banks off Co Dublin, two wind farms due to be built by Codling Wind Park off Co Wicklow and a development by North Irish Sea Array Ltd off Co Meath and north Dublin. The West of Ireland wind farm is planned by Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta off Connemara, Co Galway.

“This is the real opportunity for our country to switch away from fossil fuels and put it up to [Russian president Vladimir] Putin, saying ‘We’re not going to use your gas in the future, we have our own [energy] supply’,” Mr Ryan said at a briefing.

“Increasingly the [electricity] price will be set by renewables” rather than oil and gas, Mr Ryan added. On cost for consumers, he said: “The more we build, the cheaper this becomes.”

Second tranche

More than €200 million is to be invested in ports to facilitate offshore projects. In addition, deep-sea facilities would be needed for fabrication of large turbines associated with floating technology – with Cork Harbour and the Shannon estuary most likely to meet that requirement.

A second tranche of offshore wind farms is to bring capacity up to 5GW by 2030. From next year a new agency, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority, will oversee projects, which increasingly will deploy floating turbines and be located off the south and west coasts.

Reconfiguring global energy and ending reliance on Russian oil and gas means scaling up offshore wind, with Europe set to generate 300GW.

The big prize, Mr Ryan predicted, would come in the 2030s, “when we are generating the likes of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind ... The conversion of that to hydrogen through electrolysis increasingly is being seen as the solution which will allow us to have a modern economy, meet our climate targets and to have energy security.”

As Ireland had the potential to generate 10 times current power needs, it could become a major exporter of hydrogen, he said.

Kevin O'Sullivan

Kevin O'Sullivan

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

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