Government urged by Irish wind industry to boost offshore opportunities

15 Apr 2022

Image: © Jack Russel/Stock.adobe.com

Wind Energy Ireland has urged the Government to review the National Ports Policy to boost offshore windfarms, while RWE plans to invest €1.5bn in renewable energy projects.

The representative group for the Irish wind energy industry has called on the Government to take increased measures to help develop Ireland’s offshore windfarms.

Wind Energy Ireland said in a new report released yesterday (14 April) that the Government should bring together departments, key State agencies and industry groups to boost Ireland’s renewable energy industry, which could revitalise coastal communities, create jobs and help boost the economy.

Future Human

“With the right approach, through a concerted effort between industry, Government and coastal communities, we can build a whole new industrial sector, supporting regional development, creating thousands of jobs and driving sustainable and inclusive growth in Ireland,” Wind Energy Ireland CEO Noel Cunniffe said.

During the organisation’s annual conference this week, Cunniffe said that “the technical debate is over” as Ireland has the energy, technology and investment to create a decarbonised electrical system by 2035.

“Ireland has some of the best wind energy resources in the world,” he added. “The sooner we can build the new windfarms, on and offshore, the sooner we will not only decarbonise this country but be able to export clean power to help cut carbon emissions across Europe.”

Last month, Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy made a plea for Ireland to capitalise on the economic opportunity that offshore wind energy poses for the country.

Ireland has set a goal to generate 5GW of offshore wind energy by 2030, in a move that could more than double the country’s current onshore and offshore wind power capacity.

But some in the industry have called on the Government to increase its 2030 wind ambitions. SSE Renewables director of development Maria Ryan told the Government earlier this year that it “shouldn’t settle for 5GW by the end of the decade”.

Challenges ahead

Wind Energy Ireland noted several “significant challenges” that could impact Ireland’s ability to create an effective offshore wind industry, such as skill shortages and uncertainty around construction deadlines.

The organisation called for the creation of an offshore renewable industry forum, led by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to create an action plan to address key challenges facing the industry.

It has also called for a review of the National Ports Policy to ensure Irish port infrastructure can support the construction of offshore windfarms.

“Only one port on the island – Belfast Harbour – is suitable to support the construction of an offshore wind farm,” Cunniffe said. “We urgently need investment and support for other ports to ensure they are ready for the opportunities that will come in developing offshore wind for this decade and beyond as we deliver on the huge potential of floating wind energy off our south and west coasts.”

Cunniffe said supply chain issues have to be addressed in order for offshore windfarms to contribute to a green economy in Ireland and deliver a “just transition for coastal communities”.

“If we fail to act now we will still see these windfarms built, but we will have failed to maximise the opportunity for Irish workers and businesses to build windfarms off our coasts and, eventually, to compete internationally as the world turns more and more to renewable energy in the years to come.”

RWE investment plans

Meanwhile, German energy group RWE announced a plan this week to invest €1.5bn in Ireland over the next eight years.

The energy group said it is undertaking long-term investments in wind and battery storage projects around Ireland to grow a renewables business across a portfolio of technologies. Last May, RWE selected Bangor Erris in north Mayo as its first site to test the potential of airborne wind energy technologies.

Speaking at the Wind Energy Ireland conference, RWE Ireland country chair Cathal Hennessy said renewable energy will play a key role in delivering energy security for the Irish economy.

“But this will only happen if the correct policy frameworks are in place and adequate resources are available within key areas such as planning and energy provision,” Hennessy added.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com