Huge project for Arklow Banks

Some ten kilometres off the Wicklow coast of Ireland lies the proposed site of one of the world's largest offshore wind farms. The site -- on the Arklow Banks in the Irish Sea -- has potential for a total capacity of up to 520 MW. The IR£400 million project is an initiative of Eirtricity, one of the fastest growing green electricity traders.

Eirtricity launched its green power brand in January 2000 to take advantage of the part liberalisation in March of the Irish electricity market (page 18). It has been investigating the Arklow Banks for the past three years, initially through one of its two parents, wind developer Future Energy. The other parent, with 51%, is National Toll Roads. In July Eirtricity was licensed to begin detailed seabed investigations. It is the furthest advanced in its offshore plans of all the consortia who are currently prospecting for wind energy in Ireland's waters.

According to Eirtricity's managing director, Eddie O'Connor, by summer 2001 the company will have spent IR£2 million on developing the project. "We have already surveyed the Arklow Banks and know what they are made from," he says. "We will have done a full EIS [environmental impact statement] studying the birds and fish, and we are well on the way to getting consents."

But there are still huge technical and economic development issues to be resolved, he adds. Moreover, key to realising the project will be the choice of international partners to help shoulder the IR£400-500 million cost of the wind farm. Nonetheless, O'Connor is optimistic that he will see the first wind turbines installed on site in 2001, with development continuing over five years.