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Offshore Wind Energy Plan Could Be ‘Ardnacrusha x 100’ for Ireland

A new to help develop offshore wind energy around Ireland’s coasts will be like “Ardnacrusha to the power of 100”, Environment Minister Eamon Ryan has said — with Cork Harbour well-positioned to play a major role in its rollout.

Ryan said, “it’s a huge project. The likes of Rosslare, Cork Harbour, Belfast Harbour. That’s where the large turbines are deployed from. That’s a huge investment and developments at those ports will be needed.” 

The construction of Ardnacrusha hydroelectric power station in the 1920s became one of the seminal moments in Ireland’s history , providing a backbone for industrial, social, and economic development for decades.

Speaking in Dún Laoghaire port on Monday, Ryan outlined the new regime for offshore wind projects to get off the ground.

The new framework comes from new legislation which was passed before Christmas. It replaces the foreshore legislation which dates back to 1933.

It establishes the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (Mara), which will begin operating in the first quarter of next year.

Until that body is formally up and running, the responsibility for assessing applications for offshore wind farms will fall to Ryan and his department.

The process will see companies apply for a Mac, or maritime area consent. This process will involve the department, and later Mara, looking at the capability of the developer and ensuring their proposals are fit and proper before they make a planning application to An Bord Pleanála.

It is believed this will assist in the planning process avoiding being clogged with applications that aren’t viable, as developers will have to first progress through this Mac process. Developers who had engaged with the processes under the new legislation are advised to engage with the new regime, with the first round of applications opening on April 25 for an eight-week period.

Up to seven projects could be assessed by the minister, with a target turnaround time for a decision of 90 days.

Ryan said it was crucially important for Ireland to develop its offshore wind capability to meet our targets as set out in the Climate Action Plan. Officials also said offshore wind would be a very important component in meeting these targets.

However, these projects can often take a significant amount of time to progress to completion and Ryan said the aim was to have the first turbines in the sea in 2026. He admitted this may be tight in terms of timelines.

To allow the massive infrastructure for these offshore wind farms to be put into use, Ireland’s ports will require significant investment, according to Ryan. But this investment could also yield large economic benefits.

Ryan explained, “the third big port development, the likes of Foynes and Cork Harbour, where we could engage in building the new floating offshore turbines that are coming. The scale of that is an economic opportunity for the Shannon Estuary and Cork Harbour where you have these world-class ports, where most of our heavy industry is located, where most of our energy infrastructure is located.”

“And where we could, take the likes of Shannon Foynes, put in a building-of-these-new-turbines industry that would create thousands of jobs and real economic strength for the west of Ireland.” 

Ryan also emphasised the importance of this new process and the difference it could make in terms of reducing our reliance on fuel from outside of Ireland and in terms of costs, stating, “it’s going to be hugely significant economic, environmental and social development for our State to tap into our own wind resources.

“Our department will consider the technical, financial capability of the companies to build out these offshore wind projects. They’ll have to go through the planning system. And then go through an auction process where we can get the best price for the Irish market.” Reliance on fossil fuels “doesn’t give a secure energy future.”

He said further use of wind would lessen the need for other fuels.

He concluded, “every country is doing it. The UK is ahead of us. We have the resource. There’s a limit to what we can do onshore. Offshore, we have scale. It will be lower [cost] than fossil alternative.”

“The best way to develop this is with higher environmental standards. This is the key project for Government, along with housing and making our health system more flexible. This project, to develop offshore wind, to tap into what we have — it’s probably one of the windiest locations in the world. It’s a huge opportunity for our country and it starts today.”

Source: Irish Examiner


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