Ireland and offshore wind jobs potential

4 Oct 2010

Ireland is missing out on job creation by not fully capitalising on its offshore wind potential, according to NOW Ireland.

Failing to follow the lead of the German and other EU governments and use Ireland’s natural offshore wind resources as a driver of jobs and export growth means Ireland is losing out on creating new employment streams, according to NOW Ireland president Michael McBennett, who was speaking during an industry-led trade mission to the German town of Cuxhaven in Bremerhaven last week.

Cuxhaven is home to a cluster of offshore wind supply chain companies that are now directly employing in excess of 1,700 people after two years. 

According to NOW Ireland, offshore wind developers here are in the process of planning in excess of 2,500MW of clean wind power projects in Irish waters. About one-third of this will be needed to meet Ireland’s 2020 energy targets, with the remainder set to become the core of Ireland’s renewable exports. 

Irish Sea potential

The Irish Sea is seen as a key development zone, with substantial projects also planned for UK waters. The offshore lobby group has identified the potential of both Irish and UK projects as being a key driver to create jobs in Irish ports.

Speaking during the trade mission, McBennett said: “Governments around Europe have recognised the opportunity that this sector offers.  A small town such as Cuxhaven, which suffered from significant unemployment, was identified as being an ideal base for development as a supply chain cluster. The Lower Saxony government allocated part of its port facilities as an offshore wind centre of excellence, which has resulted in significant direct investment. The same is happening in ports throughout the UK and the same could happen in Arklow, Dublin, Bremore, or Killybegs.”

The NOW Ireland trade mission included representatives from Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Forfás, Invest NI and the Construction Industry Federation, in addition to members of the Irish offshore sector. 

“The main purpose of this journey was to show what is achievable. With political will, with leadership, these projects can and do take off.  Our wind resource is considerably better than that of Germany. What has been created here is due to the determination of national and regional government in Germany to put in place a regime which takes advantage of the renewable resources which are here,” added McBennett.

Delegation host

The NOW Ireland delegation was hosted by Dr Klaus Weber of Strabag Wind, one of the key companies in the Cuxhaven cluster.  He said that companies such as his are looking to Ireland, among other countries, as a potential venue for investment. 

Following discussions with German supply chain companies, McBennett said such firms will not locate in Ireland unless the offshore projects exist.

“There needs to be some sense that the Irish offshore industry is going to fulfil the undoubted potential it has before supply chain companies such as Strabag Wind locate here. In the last six months the UK, thanks to their positive attitude to offshore wind, have seen announcements by multinationals such as Siemens, Clipper, Multibrid, Iberdrola and others bringing thousands of jobs in manufacturing. Ireland badly needs these jobs and we could have them,” he added.

NOW Ireland will be holding its third annual conference – Offshore Wind Energy in Ireland – From Policy to Reality on 14 October at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin. For further details, visit NOW Ireland.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic