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Saturday, May 25, 2024

Exploring Ireland’s Offshore & Marine Opportunities

Ireland’s maritime landscape is undergoing a significant transformation, with a series of initiatives and investments aiming to leverage the nation’s substantial offshore wind energy potential and foster marine biodiversity conservation. These developments are not just critical to Ireland’s pursuit of renewable energy but also present a range of economic, environmental, and community opportunities.

National Industrial Strategy for Offshore Wind

The first cornerstone of this transformation was laid by Minister Simon Coveney, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, on May 9, 2023. He announced the development of a National Industrial Strategy for Offshore Wind, a strategic roadmap designed to exploit the vast economic opportunities presented by Offshore Wind Energy (OWE). This strategy aligns with Ireland’s ambitious Offshore Energy Programme, which aims to deliver 5GW of OWE by 2030 and a further 2GW of Floating OWE. The long-term target is set at a staggering 37GW by 2050. The strategy underscores Ireland’s commitment to sourcing 80% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. This initiative necessitates a collaborative approach between the government, industry stakeholders, and various departments and agencies. The strategy’s main objectives include optimising the supply chain for a scalable OWE sector and establishing effective market routes for renewable energy. Scheduled for publication in the first quarter of 2024, the strategy will work in tandem with other policies spearheaded by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications and the Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce.

Boost to Environmental NGOs

Complementing these efforts, on December 14, 2023, Minister Eamon Ryan announced an additional €1.1 million funding for the Irish Environmental Network (IEN). This network, comprising various environmental NGOs, plays a critical role in marine environment research and public engagement related to offshore wind projects. The funding is aimed at enhancing these organisations’ capabilities in marine science and research, planning for offshore wind, and public engagement (further public  consultation and community engagement resources available at https://placeengage.com/) . This financial injection is vital for effective maritime spatial planning and establishing a ‘plan-led’ regime for offshore wind development. Crucially, it will enable NGOs to contribute significantly to the establishment of future Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs), which are pivotal for sustainable offshore wind project development.

Local Impacts and Developments

The focus on offshore wind energy has also led to substantial local projects. In May 2023, a €2 billion project at Sceirde Rocks, involving about 30 turbines, received provisional government approval. This development, part of a series of offshore energy projects, is expected to bring significant local development, job opportunities, and economic benefits.

On the east coast, plans for the country’s largest offshore wind farm at the Codling site are underway, capable of powering 1.2 million homes. Similarly, in Donegal, a proactive approach led by the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO) has facilitated a memorandum of understanding with Hexicon for a €3 billion wind farm project.

A Call for Coordinated Action

Senator Timmy Dooley has highlighted the untapped potential of floating offshore wind, urging the government to create and resource a specialised unit within the IDA to coordinate stakeholder activity in this sector. He emphasises the need for Ireland to not only advance its own economic development through these projects but also to become a significant renewable energy provider for Europe.

It is clear that Ireland has the potential to become a leader in offshore wind energy, however, this will require a radically different approach to that adopted to date. . The ongoing initiatives, bolstered by government support and stakeholder collaboration, are laying the groundwork for a future where renewable energy not only powers Ireland sustainably but also contributes significantly to its economic and environmental welfare. As these projects progress, they will likely become a model for other nations looking to harness their offshore wind potential. 

Let’s hope for more political bravery and policy boldness in 2024 and beyond.

For regular updates and insights into Ireland’s construction sector, stay informed at www.breakingground.news. Also, be sure to share your industry news by emailing editor@breakingground.news

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