The Republic of Ireland has fast-tracked seven offshore wind energy projects through its upcoming marine planning regime.

The developments, which have been designated as ‘relevant projects’ include: the Oriel wind farm; innogy’s Bray and Kish Banks; two projects by Codling Wind Park; North Irish Sea Array wind farm; and the Sceirde (Skerd) Rocks offshore wind farm.

Under the new marine planning regime, the projects will apply for final development consent to An Bord Pleanála, which will provide further opportunities for public consultation on the individual projects.

The decision to fast-track the projects has been praised by Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), which said that the move puts the country on the path to achieving its 2030 targets for offshore; the government’s climate action plan commits to having at least 3.5 GW of offshore wind in Ireland in the next ten years, which will help renewables account for 70 percent of electricity generation by 2030.

There is huge offshore wind potential in Ireland – the industry could attract over EUR42 billion (USD52 billion) in lifetime investment, according to IWEA. However, a report by the Carbon Trust for IWEA, Harnessing our Potential, warns that wind farms in the country could be built from bases outside the country unless strategic investments are made.

Steps need to be taken to grow the local supply chain. As it stands, the report suggests that Irish firms would be able to attract just over a fifth of the potential wind energy investment, at most.

A key reason is that developers will be forced to use ports such as Belfast, Mostyn or Barrow to construct the wind farms because no port in the Irish Republic meets all the requirements for offshore wind projects.

There are plans to develop an offshore wind supply base in the Republic, however. Dutch project logistics management consultancy Xellz secured approximately 200,000 sq m of land at the port of Rosslare through its subsidiary Xellz Ireland earlier this year, as HLPFI reported here.

The company has since divided the land into zones and decided on a name – Rosslare Europort Business Park (EBP).

The five zones – EBP01, EBP02, EBP03, EBP04, and EBP05 – are all situated alongside the planned access road to the port. The land adjoins the port area, offering direct access to the quay.

Peter Bouwhuis, ceo of Xellz, said that this latest stage of development “marks the real beginning for this development to serve the future offshore wind farms in the Irish and Celtic Sea”. He added that the company is now ready to talk to interested parties.

Xellz hopes that the EBP will become a hub of activity for companies involved in the construction of offshore wind farms.

Ireland will become an attractive market for offshore wind investors but more developments like the Xellz base will be required for the country to capitalise on these investments. Dr David Connolly, ceo of IWEA, said: “This is the time for Ireland to seize the opportunity, to bring together industry, policymakers and coastal communities to identify a suitable port on Ireland’s east coast and to make it a base for Ireland’s newest industry.”

Liam Leahy of the Carbon Trust, lead author of the report, added: “Ireland has significant wind resources around its coastline and by accelerating the deployment of offshore wind farms Ireland will be able to meet its carbon reduction targets whilst benefiting from clean affordable electricity.

“In the longer term, Ireland’s west coast offshore wind resource has the potential to play a key role in helping Europe to decarbonise and offers Ireland a chance to lead the sector.”