December 30, 2021

Approval granted for a major offshore wind project in Ireland

Offshore Wind in Ireland

The Irish section of Norwegian energy firm Statkraft has received a foreshore licence to continue with plans for a €1bn offshore wind site in the Irish Sea, with an anticipated capacity of 500MW of electricity. 

The proposed development, referred to as the North Irish Sea Array (NISA), will be located between 7 and 17km offshore of Dublin, Meath and Louth. A foreshore license was required by Statkraft for the developers to perform detailed marine surveys and to determine the most suitable location and design of the wind farm. The surveys will incorporate a combination of geophysical, geotechnical and ecological aspects. NISA has been in the works by several owners for some years now, being previously explored by Gaelectric in 2009. In 2018, Element Power acquired the project from Gaelectric, and in the same year, Statkraft bought Element Power’s Irish and UK side of the business, including the NISA.

The nearby Clogherhead Fishermen’s Association requested further details on the foreshore license application and had reservations to any future work in its current shape. The association stated that they believed the wind site could have a significant impact on local fishing communities. 

In a recent statement, Statkraft highlighted that they recognised the importance of fishing to local coastal regions and were committed to creating a fair model to support the further development of NISA. The Government introduced a target of 5GW of power by offshore wind farms of the coastline of Ireland by 2030. In the last few days, the Marine Area Planning bill passed by the Government is due to replace any existing rulings. The new plans will enhance the overall application process for planning and consents and facilitate the future development of offshore energy projects.

The Irish Government intends to run two offshore wind auctions by 2025 to reach the planned 5GW to be developed by 2030. Most of this 5GW will be fixed offshore structures. After 2030, the Government wants Ireland to increase its capacity to 35GW by 2050, which would require considerable construction of floating offshore wind in deeper waters in the south and west coast of Ireland.

Wind industry experts have highlighted that Ireland must start investing more into the infrastructure required for offshore wind development. Ports will need further investment to supply the materials to wind farms. Ireland is currently developing a 700MW Celtic Interconnector to France, which will allow it to export some of its wind energy. The large majority of new offshore wind energy will support the electrification of the Irish economy. Offshore wind will also create another opportunity for Ireland to produce green hydrogen.

Giles Dickson, the CEO of WindEurope, states that Ireland is already in a leading position for onshore wind in Europe and has the ideal conditions for the offshore wind sector. Dickson believes it’s brilliant news that the Irish Government has created the offshore auction but emphasises that Ireland needs to increase its investment plans in port infrastructures to ensure these areas are ready for the future.