Irish supplier drops out of 50 MW project in the Irish Sea

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Irish electricity supplier and generator ESB has pulled out of a 50 MW offshore wind project in the Irish Sea. The Kish Bank wind farm is planned for a sandbank ten kilometres off Dublin. The departure of ESB's wind subsidiary, Hibernian Wind Power, from the Kish Consortium leaves the project in the hands of the remaining member of the consortium: Saorgus Energy, which bought Hibernian's stake. Both companies insist the arrangement was amicable. "We took a strategic view of the market and decided we wanted to concentrate our efforts on land rather than offshore," says Hibernian's Brian Ryan. But he adds that Hibernian was "not one hundred per cent comfortable" with being in a minority position owning just a third of the Kish Bank project. Saorgus took the majority holding when Powergen Renewables, one of the consortium's three original partners, sold its share to Saorgus. Aidan Forde from Saorgus insists the departure of Hibernian has nothing to do with the viability of the project. "We have everything we need to proceed with it apart from the grid connection," he says. Like many other Irish projects, Kish Bank is held in a long queue waiting for offers from ESB for connection to the grid. Forde says he is confident of raising finance. "We are building one hundred megawatt of onshore wind. Fifty megawatts offshore is not going to cause us a problem," he says. Yet industry observers note that the price of the power purchase contract awarded to the Kish Consortium under Ireland's competitive Alternative Energy Requirement (AER) is likely to be below EUR 8 per kilowatt hour. Without the strong balance sheet of a company like ESB, financing could prove elusive, they fear.

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