If the necessary framework can be put in place around connections, consenting, research and route to market, Ireland could quickly transition from onshore wind to offshore.
Ireland has significant potential for large-scale, commercial offshore wind energy projects according to a leading analyst.
Cornwall Insight’s head of Ireland Conall Bolger told OWJ that the future is ‘wide open’ for offshore wind if a number of key issues can be addressed.
As he noted, until recently renewables growth in Ireland has been a story with one key protagonist – onshore wind. Its offshore wind cousin has not progressed beyond a single operational project – the 25 MW Arklow Bank installation. This development lacuna has occurred despite the significant resource available offshore in Irish waters.
However, as he pointed out, a strategic environmental assessment, undertaken as part of the process to develop Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan, identified a potential of 4.5 GW of offshore wind and 1.5 GW of wave and tidal sites that could be developed without significant impact on the environment.
Now, he said, offshore wind has begun to pique interest in the country, as evidenced by the increased attention at industry events and several recent developments.
These include Innogy announcing an investment in the 600 MW Dublin Array site and that it would be partnering with the original developer, Saorgus to progress the site.
Then there’s Element Power announcing that it had taken over development of the North Irish Sea Array offshore wind site, formerly being developed by Gaelectric.
Greencoat Renewables has commented on a potential addition of offshore wind to its portfolio beyond 2019, and SSE supported offshore wind in its evidence to the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment in January 2018.
Statoil reportedly saw great potential in offshore wind in a briefing for Minister Naughten in January, reported in the Irish Times, and ESB has expanded into the UK offshore wind sector, taking a 12.5% stake in the 353 MW Galloper windfarm, not forgetting that EDF is acquiring Mainstream Renewable Power’s Neart na Gaoithe project in Scottish waters.
With all this activity, has the sector’s time come? Perhaps, but it will still have to come to grips with a number of issues if it is to have a chance to attain the scale seen in peer northern European markets like the UK and Germany.
There is clearly potential for large-scale offshore wind projects in Irish waters, if the necessary frameworks can be put in place, he said. Will Ireland Inc make the decision? The future is wide open.
You can find out what Mr Bolger believes those issues are and how they might be addressed, in his full article.