Offshore price galvanises market -- Ireland set for 2000 MW

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Five companies have pledged to build 2000 MW of offshore wind power in Irish waters over the next five years following last month's announcement by energy minister Eamon Ryan of a guaranteed purchase price of EUR 140/MWh for electricity generated by wind turbines at sea. The rate is more than double the EUR 60/MWh Irish consumers pay for onshore wind power and is to be paid for the first 15 years of operation. Ryan says it is in line with what other countries are offering.

On hearing the news, prospective developers immediately scrambled, pledging to invest a combined EUR 4 billion by 2012. The promised 2000 MW of capacity would come from existing lease areas in Irish waters, they say. Several of the projects have been on the back burners for up to eight years awaiting a government decision to boost support for offshore wind.

The developers are members of the newly-formed National Offshore Wind Association, calling itself NOW Ireland. They comprise Airtricity, which built the 25 MW Arklow Bank wind farm in the first phase of a 520 MW project; Oriel Windfarm, a consortium which applied last year for a foreshore lease to build a 330 MW wind farm off Dundalk Bay, Louth; Saorgus Energy, which applied two years ago for two leases for a wind farm off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow; Codling Wind Park, a joint venture between Eco Wind Power and Fred Olsen renewables, which has secured a foreshore lease to construct 600 MW of wind farms on Codling Bank off Wicklow; and Fuinneamh Sceide Teo, which plans a 100 MW wind farm at the Skerd rocks off Galway, the only project sited off the west coast of Ireland.

Ryan further announced that the governments of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland are looking into the feasibility of building new sub-sea transmission links along the Irish Sea. These could form part of a European offshore grid connecting wind farms from a number of countries, he says. "Offshore wind projects and investors will reap the benefits of the guaranteed price and further connection with Europe. Projects of real scale can be developed," adds Ryan. "Ultimately, this will benefit the electricity consumer and the nation as we move towards a low-carbon and strong economy. Today's move will help us meet our climate change and renewable energy targets"

NOW welcomes the prospect of further sub-sea interconnection with the EU. "The study will prove extremely beneficial to planning the future of energy deployment in Ireland and the EU in the coming years," it says. "It is our belief that an EU-wide grid will lead to lower costs for consumers and an increased deployment of clean renewable energy. Interconnections on a European scale will increase competition, lead to export opportunities, improve security of supply and reduce the need to utilise older, inefficient power stations."

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