Only one port in Ireland ready to construct offshore windfarms, report finds

4 days ago

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An industry report said there are currently not enough suitable ports around Ireland to help the country meet its offshore wind energy targets.

Only one port on the island of Ireland is ready to be used to construct offshore windfarms, according to a new report from Wind Energy Ireland.

The report, produced by Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions, examined the existing infrastructure at 13 ports and harbours across the Republic and Northern Ireland, along with their expansion plans.

It found that Belfast Harbour’s D1 facility is the only one that can currently accommodate the construction of offshore windfarms at the scale anticipated.

A total of 11 ports including Dublin Port, Wicklow Harbour and the Port of Waterford were screened out of the report, due to limitations such as limited water depths or commitments to other sectors.

Earlier this month, Ireland increased its offshore wind energy target to 7GW by 2030.

The report said that port infrastructure is “key” for offshore wind projects, serving as gateways for turbine components during construction and usually becoming supply chain hubs.

Wind Energy Ireland CEO Noel Cunniffe said constructing offshore windfarms from Irish ports is the best way to create “jobs at home” and to deliver wind energy “at the lowest possible price”.

“But we cannot build 7GW of offshore wind energy by the end of 2030 if we only have a single port on the island suitable for building offshore windfarms,” Cunniffe added.

“We need to be able to build more than one offshore wind project at the same time if we are to have any chance to deliver the carbon emissions cuts that the Government wants and that climate action requires.”

Cunniffe noted that the Government’s policy statement on offshore wind and commercial ports, combined with the new Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce, show an “increased focus on delivery”.

“But with only eight years to deliver 7GW of offshore wind energy, there is growing concern throughout industry that projects may have to be built from outside of Ireland or will need to wait for availability in Belfast.”

The report included a number of suggestions to improve Ireland’s ports, such as Government funding, better clarity on the timeline of offshore projects and prioritising planning applications related to renewable energy, including port infrastructure.

The report’s lead author, Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions principal engineer Sarah Gibson, said Ireland’s ports have the “ambition, the determination and the imagination” to provide first-class infrastructure for offshore renewable projects.

“Ireland can be a base from which to build a generation of fixed-bottom and floating wind energy projects, creating thousands of jobs and ensuring that investment stays in Ireland,” she said.

“But it won’t just happen by itself. It will need Government, ports and renewable energy developers working together to make this ambition a reality.”

The report was funded by Belfast Harbour, DP Energy, ESB, Inis Offshore Wind, Ocean Winds, Ørsted, RWE Renewables and Source Energie.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com