Ireland 'missing out' on offshore wind benefits

IRELAND: Offshore wind is the only technology with the scale and deployment capability to help Ireland meet its future energy demand and EU renewable targets, according to a new report.

Ireland's only offshore wind project is SSE Renewables' 25.2MW Arklow Bank site
Ireland's only offshore wind project is SSE Renewables' 25.2MW Arklow Bank site

Ireland would need to add between 400MW and 700MW of new renewable capacity each year if it is to meet EU’s target of sourcing 16% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020, rising to 32% by 2030.

Offshore wind deployment could also help it enhance security of its energy supply, improve grid optimisation, reduce transmission costs, and create jobs, trend market analysts KPMG stated.

In the long-term, developing offshore wind could create opportunities for interconnection and exports from Ireland, the report added.

However, Ireland is the only EU country with an Atlantic coastline not developing offshore wind, KMPG noted in its report for the National Offshore Wind Energy Association of Ireland (NOW Ireland).

KMPG identified a pipeline of about 1GW of offshore wind projects that could be built out by 2020, while a further 3GW could be added by 2030.

The analysts also suggested Ireland could become an industry leader in floating wind due to the nature of the sea basin and the large scale of natural resource off its west coast.

However, the head of the ORE Research Group at the Marei Centre, University College Cork, warned against developing such projects in the Atlantic at Windpower Monthly’s floating offshore wind forum in late June.

Despite its excellent wind resources, the west coast of Ireland’s harsh environment would create difficulties in installation and operations and maintenance activities for developers, Jimmy Murphy argued.

Nevertheless, KPMG made several recommendations for aiding the development of the Irish offshore wind industry — including floating offshore wind — and stimulate the required private sector investment:

  • The government should form an Offshore Wind Development Committee to bring together representatives of the relevant government departments and state agencies and those working within the industry to oversee development;
  • It should include technology-specific support for offshore wind within its proposed renewable electricity support scheme;
  • The government should also include a specific offshore wind grid connection round for projects in the Irish Sea.

Ireland has just one 25MW operational offshore wind farm, according to Windpower Intelligence, the research and data division of Windpower Monthly.

However, several other projects are in various stages of development.

Leases have been granted for Eco Wind Power and Fred.Olsen Renewables’ 220-turbine Codling Wind Park, and SSE Renewables’ 495MW extension of its 25MW Arklow Bank project, KPMG noted.

Meanwhile, Innogy bought a 50% stake in the proposed 600MW Dublin Array site in March.

And in October, Statkraft acquired Element Power, which was developing the 750MW North Irish Sea Array (NISA) project, both of which are off the east coast of Ireland.

The government has approved a new renewable energy support scheme to introduce power auctions — in which offshore wind could feature — from next year.

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