Firm 'ready to start' €3bn wind farm

 

The backers of a €3 billion wind farm proposed for the Irish Sea have said it is ready to be built "tomorrow" if they get permission from the Commission for Energy Regulation to connect to the national grid.

Fred Olsen Renewables has already received planning permission for the 220-turbine Codling wind park, off the Irish coast north of the current wind farm at Arklow.

The wind farm has potential generating capacity of about 1,100 megawatts, meaning it would be one of the largest in the world and would be sufficient to meet the annual electricity demand of about 500,000 households.

It would offer also export potential through the Ireland -Wales electricity interconnector being built by Eirgrid.

The wind farm project was one of a number of offshore wind energy projects proposed for the Irish Sea that were highlighted by the Irish arm of energy giant Siemens, at the European Future Energy Forum in London today.

The forum also heard strong backing from European energy ministers for development of a northwest Europe offshore grid linking electricity networks in a number of countries and providing connections for offshore wind farms.

British energy secretary Chris Huhne said €230 billion (£200 billion) would need to be invested to secure low-carbon energy supply for the United Kingdom by 2020. Among the "unique opportunities" he detailed were the wind resources in the Irish Sea. He added: "As new generation comes online, so a new generation of supply and support will spring up. In engineering, manufacturing, and maintenance, the opportunities will keep growing as our energy portfolio expands."

However, although Graham Cooper a spokesman for Fred Olsen Renewables, told The Irish Times the Codling Bank project was ready to go "tomorrow", he said the Commission for Energy Regulation had not given consent for a connection to the Irish grid.

Mr Cooper said the commission had, like the United Kingdom, adopted a "first come, first served, date of application" approach to licensing. But he said in the United Kingdom it had been discovered that some projects had not progressed so the UK scheme was amended to take into account the "readiness" of projects to go to construction. No similar amendments had been made in Ireland, he said.

"The unfortunate thing is that we know the commission has given permissions to a range of smaller scale projects ahead of us many of which will never materialise" he said.

Mr Graham insisted the projects would provide jobs in building, supply and maintenance as well as the potential to develop port facilities to support a number of wind farms. He mentioned a proposed extension to the Arklow offshore wind farm owned by Airtricity, a subsidiary of Scottish and Southern Energy and one of the UK largest energy providers, which he said faced a similar difficulty to the Coding bank project.

A spokesman for the National Offshore Wind Association said it was keenly aware many more offshore wind projects than permissions for connection to the grid was likely. The spokesman recalled the Taoiseach had, as recently as last week, remarked on the need for new and renewable wind energy projects "both on and offshore". But he said the position with regard to connections had not changed.

The Codling wind farm, one of four large projects earmarked for the Irish Sea would be located to the east of the shallow sand bank known as Codling Bank, about 13 kilometres off the east coast, between Greystones and Wicklow.

Water depths at the site range between nine metres and 16 metres, and the closest towns of Kilcoole and Greystones are situated some 14.8km from the wind farm area, while Wicklow is 17km to the southwest.

Mr Cooper said consideration was also being given to bringing the electricity ashore at the Wylfa/Caernarfon sub-stations in Wales - around 100km away. However, he said this would require new levels of consent from both Irish and British governments.