Developers would still need to compete for power contracts at an auction due in 2021, but can now start discussing with grid operator EirGrid how they might connect to the transmission grid.
They can also prepare environmental studies for Ireland’s appeal board for planning, An Bord Pleanála.
Ireland designated seven wind farms - with a combiend capacity of up to 3,480MW - as 'Relevant Projects':
- Innogy’s 1000MW Dublin Array Dublin Array (1000MW) Offshoreon the Kish and Bray Banks, off Dublin and Wicklow, Ireland, Europe Click to see full details, a two-project development off Ireland’s south-east coast.
- EDF Renewables and Fred Olsen's 1000MW Codling Wind Park Codling Wind Park (1000MW) Offshoreoff County Wicklow, Ireland, Europe Click to see full details a 1GW, two-project development off the south-east coast of Ireland.
The developers will be able to update aspects of their projects so that they are ready to apply under Ireland’s new marine planning regime, which will be introduced by a bill due to be passed later this year, the ministers explained.
They added that the bill will update Ireland’s regulatory and marine planning framework for offshore renewable energy projects more than 22.2km from the shore.
However, the projects will still have to apply for final development consent from Ireland’s appeal board for planning.
The Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) welcomed the announcement, adding it would help Ireland on its way to its goal of commissioning 3.5GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
But its CEO David Connolly warned that the grid operator (EirGrid) and appeal board for planning must work with the developers “as soon as possible” to identify how they will connect projects to the grid and ensure the planning applications can be processed as quickly as possible.
IWEA's head of public affairs, Justin Moran, also noted the terms and conditions of the 2021 auction — including whether it would be offshore wind-only or technology-neutral — have not been published.
SSE Renewables’ planned 520MW extension to its already-operational 25MW Arklow Bank wind farm was not included on the list of seven projects.
The developer already has a lease for the site off County Wicklow under Ireland’s Foreshore Act, which is due to be replaced by the new marine planning regime.
Its director of developments Barry Kilcline explained that SSE does not envisage material planning amendments to its existing consent, and so the developer did not apply for 520MW Arklow Bank 2 Arklow Bank 2 (520MW) Offshoreoff Arklow, County Wicklow, Ireland, Europe Click to see full details to be designated as a 'Relevant Project'.
The developer intends to proceed with its existing permit, and is continuing to work with EirGrid to progress the grid connection application, he said.
Kilcline added that SSE Renewables aims to have the project online by 2025.