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Ireland on ‘cusp of delivering’ an offshore wind industry

SSE Renewables developing number of wind farms that will be crucial to State meeting its 2030 renewable energy targets

Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coast of Co Wicklow

Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coast of Co Wicklow

 

Ireland currently has the highest share of electricity demand met by onshore wind in the world, with almost 37 per cent of electricity coming from this source in the first half of this year.

Ireland is also one of the leading countries in the world for use of wind energy, ranking third, after Denmark and Uruguay, according to the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Our electricity system’s dependence on wind is set to only increase as we work to reduce our carbon emissions and achieve net zero by 2050.

SSE Renewables is the largest renewable energy generator and investor on the island of Ireland, and is continuing to drive significant investment into the country. Its recent success in Ireland’s first Renewable Energy Support Scheme (RESS) auction for the Lenalea Wind Farm in Co Donegal means it now has the green light to develop a 30.5MW project there.

“This wind farm, which we are co-developing with partners Coillte, will generate enough low-carbon renewable energy to power 20,000 homes annually and offset 24,500 tonnes of carbon per annum, contributing significantly to Ireland’s 2030 renewable energy targets,” Barry Kilcline, director of development at SSE Renewables says.

Lenalea is just one of a number of projects which his company, part of the FTSE-listed SSE plc group, is developing with partners Coillte. Together, they have ambitions to deliver almost 400MW of new onshore wind for Ireland.

But offshore wind is where SSE Renewables has a distinct advantage.

“We are the leading developer, owner and operator of offshore wind energy across the UK and Ireland. We have the largest single offshore wind development pipeline in the UK, which in itself is the largest offshore wind energy market in the world,” Kilcline says.

Together with its partners Equinor, it is building the 3.6GW Dogger Bank Wind Farm in the North Sea. When complete, it will be the world’s biggest offshore wind farm and will be capable of generating enough green energy to power about 4.5 million UK homes.

Next phase

Ireland’s offshore wind energy market is in an emerging state with only the Arklow Bank Wind Park Phase 1, a 25.2MW demonstrator project off the coast of Co Wicklow, in operation in Irish waters. However, the ambition for Ireland’s east coast is high as development of offshore is essential to Ireland’s delivery of 5GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, as set out in the programme for government.

SSE Renewables expects to meet Ireland’s 2030 offshore target through the development of the next phase of Arklow Bank Wind Park in the near term, as well as new blue sea opportunities in Irish waters into the future.

“We believe Arklow Bank Phase 2 can be Ireland’s first offshore wind farm of major scale. If built, it will be able to generate 520MW of green renewable energy, helping to decarbonise Ireland’s environment by 1 per cent annually through an investment of up to €2 billion and power around half a million Irish homes. We’re targeting delivery of Arklow Bank Wind Park by 2025, so as to help meet Ireland’s target of 1GW of offshore wind in the same year, as set out in the State’s climate action plan,” Kilcline says.

The company is also pursuing longer-term projects off the coasts of Co Louth and Co Waterford, both of which are progressing through early development phases and are targeting a generation capacity of 800MW each.

“The full potential of Ireland’s offshore wind resources will not truly be known until Government fulfils its ambition of deploying floating technology, to harness the wind power available off the west coast of our island,” Kilcline says.

When these ambitions and Ireland’s enhanced connectivity to other markets is realised, Ireland should then be in a position to export its resources to neighbouring countries in need. This export opportunity is only likely to happen once the renewable requirements of Ireland, which are increasing year on year, are satisfied, Kilcline adds.

“We continue to be world leaders in integrating renewable energy into our electricity system, and we are on the cusp of delivering a long awaited offshore wind industry. Working together with partners in EirGrid, Commission for Regulation of Water Utilities, and right across Government, companies such as ours and other developers will be able to play our part to deliver these renewable initiatives so critical to the delivery of net zero, and to slowing the pace of climate change,” he concludes.