Ireland lays out possible offshore development levels

IRELAND: The Irish government has released its offshore renewable energy plan, in which it sets 2030 targets for the development of offshore wind.

Ireland could develop as much as 4.5GW of offshore wind by 2030
Ireland could develop as much as 4.5GW of offshore wind by 2030
Under the plan, the country would install a minimum of 800MW of offshore wind capacity. A medium scenario of 2.3GW, and a high scenario of 4.5GW are also put forward.

The document lays out proposals to establish an offshore renewable energy steering group to oversee the efforts made towards this target.

This body will work with existing entities, such as the marine coordination group, chaired by the minister for agriculture, food and the marine.

On top of this, the report calls for the streamlining of offshore-specific consent structures. To this end, the environment, community and local government ministry's maritime area and amendment bill aims to bring together both the onshore and offshore elements of developments.

This change would reduce duplication in the consent process and involve a single environmental impact assessment, reducing costs.

In order to facilitate development, energy minister Pat Rabbitte will more than double his department's ocean energy development budget to EUR 26.3 million in the period 2013 to 2016.

Part of this funding will go towards the building of the new laboratory at the Integrated Maritime Energy Resource Cluster, a partnership between University College Cork, Cork Institute of Technology and the Irish Naval Service.

Money will also go towards a prototype development fund, which is aimed at stimulating industry-led projects for the deployment of new offshore technology.

As well as boosting domestic generation, the report points to the possibility of exporting offshore wind power to the UK via a sub-sea link. The UK has publicly signalled an interest in up to 5GWs of renewable energy from its neighbour, for which onshore and offshore wind would be competing.

The Republic of Ireland's existing operational offshore wind capacity is small, at just 25.2MW. The seven-turbine Arklow Bank came online in 2004 and might have heralded the beginnings of large-scale growth in capacity. But the 2008 financial crisis, recession and other factors stalled activity and no offshore wind capacity has been added since.

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