The Irish Times view on Ireland’s offshore wind: a vital need to speed investment

The risk is that delays on commitments and unacceptably long and unpredictable timelines on infrastructure delivery will lead to multi-billion euro funding going elsewhere

Ireland is at a critical juncture in attempting to put in place the right circumstances – a mix of policy, regulation and timely issuing of contracts through auctions – for multinational renewable energy companies with big offshore wind energy ambitions to locate in Irish waters.

The renewables sector and particularly those in offshore wind have had a torrid few years with difficult market conditions and poor profitability. But there are tangible indications of an upturn, with more clarity on government rules and EU targets, an increase in consented projects and the scaling-up of turbine manufacturing in Europe.

In Ireland, there are already a first tranche of Irish offshore projects deploying fixed-bottom turbines near to the shore in the pipeline, backed by substantial investment. But it is clear that use of floating turbines in deeper water is a rapidly maturing technology – and one the Government must deploy if it is to meet its ambitious plans for 2030, 2040 and 2050.

The risk, however, is that delays on commitments and unacceptably long and unpredictable timelines on infrastructure delivery – often linked to a poorly functioning planning system – will lead to investor uncertainty and multi-billion euro funding going elsewhere. Some companies eyeing Ireland contend that this is already happening and that such is the competition it will be difficult to entice investors back.


In Ireland’s favour is the presence of one of the highest average wind speeds in the world and a marine area more than seven times the size of the land mass. And the fact that the major investment surge in floating technology is still to come.

Ireland is at the same point as Spain in seeking to ramp-up offshore investment. Policymakers here can learn lessons from Spain’s long-established onshore renewables sector. Its current level of port development in anticipation of offshore wind farms off northern Spain typifies its strategic approach, with sustained investment resulting in large hubs thriving in the right locations.

There is much work to be done, however, to ensure Ireland adopts the highly efficient delivery patterns of Europe’s clean energy superpowers, such as Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and France. To date, the necessary co-operation between Government departments to ensure policy coherence is not always in evidence in pursuit of the vital goal of decarbonising Ireland. A special task force established to speed development is making progress, but there is much work still to be done.

Now, areas for offshore development must be confirmed off the South, West and East coast, with another offshore auction due by the end of the year. Delivering this on time would provide much of the certainty that investors need. So too would ensuring that the planning system for these massive projects works efficiently.