June 14, 2021

Why offshore wind is vital to the economy of Ireland

The development of renewable energy generation on a large scale is regarded as critical to maintaining competitiveness, climate credentials and the international reputation of Ireland. There is significant potential for Ireland, particularly within the offshore wind industry. 

The Offshore Wind 2025 report highlights the potential for the development of up to 50GW of floating offshore wind capacity. This equates to 11% of the EU’s required offshore wind target in regards to reaching decarbonisation of energy systems by 2050. 

The cost of offshore wind energy generation has dropped considerably over the last few years. The reasons include improved technologies, the economies of scale, rising competitive supply chains and improved developer experience. Within the UK, the costs of new offshore wind has decreased by 50% since 2015 and is now one of the lowest cost options for new energy in the country, cheaper than new gas and nuclear energy. This tipping point was anticipated to be met until closer to 2030.

Floating offshore wind farms represent an important part of the wider renewable energy generation plans across Europe. For Ireland, 6.3GW of domestic offshore wind by 2030 would be capable of supporting approximately 12,000 jobs in the domestic supply chain. Cork Harbour is well positioned to support the development of floating offshore wind due to its location, the current port capacity, the connectivity and the availability of a skilled workforce. The skills are important and the National Maritime College of Ireland and Centre for Marine and Renewable Energy offers access to training and academic research suited for the offshore wind industry.

The potential of Cork Harbour as a hub for offshore wind is being widely recognied by investors. Irish developer Simply Blue Energy is making plans for a 1GW floating wind farm referred to as Emerald in the Celtic Sea and has confirmed an agreement with Shell to progress with their plans. Furthermore, Irish Mainport Holdings has acquired survey vessel Mainport Geo to support the industry.

Other projects including EI-H2 have revealed a plan to develop green hydrogen generation supported by offshore wind. These projects are clear indicators of confidence in Cork as an important offshore wind hub. However, further investment is required to drive the true potential of the industry. Floating offshore wind must be specifically supported in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme without delay.

Cork Harbour should be regarded as a strategic hub for floating offshore wind projects within the Ireland 2040 National Development Plan. Supporters suggest that zoning in the harbour for activities supporting offshore wind in the Cork County Development Plan are critical.

The value of floating offshore wind to Ireland is essential in economic and environmental terms. The industry is rapidly developing and with further focus on delivery Ireland could play an important role globally. Industry experts believe the Climate Action Plan to increase offshore wind capacity in Ireland to 5GW is the starting point and must not only be achieved but also surpassed.