"Offshore wind energy will be a watershed in Ireland"


The moves are now underway in this country to put Ireland at the center of the world's offshore wind generation, focusing on how the industry can be established here.

While attempts have been made to generate electricity through offshore wind farms in the past, the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) says that in five years time the sector is very likely to become "a watershed" in terms of renewable energy. this country.

According to IWEA chief of communications and public relations, Justin Moran, offshore turbines can be built much higher and therefore electricity can be generated "at a better rate."

He says it's because of this fact that these kinds of developments are becoming increasingly popular all over the world.

Moran also pointed out that the reason it will take another five years for the industry to become operational in this country is because of the difficulties involved in legislation, planning and associated costs.

He says that while all these issues are resolved over time, they are the reason for stagnation in the development of this particular type of wind power infrastructure at the present time.

"If I build my wind farm and I'm connected to the grid, I then go to the Public Services Regulatory Commission (CRU) and make a request. They process the application and eventually come back and say that here is what you do, "said Moran.

"But if I build an offshore wind farm, I do not know who to go to. CRU does not process offshore applications and EirGrid can not either. There is a difficulty here.

Building in sovereign waters

The chief of communications and public relations at IWEA went on to say that the water development planning process is "complicated" and the legislation on the Foreshore Act, he explained, "is how you ask for planning permission to build on Irish sovereign waters off the coast ".

"About seven years ago, the government announced that it would change the planning system, so there is a bill called the Foreshore Area Maritime Amendment (MAFA) and that will change, bring together, and make the offshore planning system more effective," he said. added.

"At the moment, there are guys with these offshore licenses thinking," What happens if this law comes in? "So at the moment, there is a caution in advancing with any development in relation to that specific area.

There are also – at the moment – very complicated legal issues regarding private property rights along the coast, and that is why we are in the situation where we have this law.

Moran says organizations like IWEA remain hopeful that the MAFA will be approved by 2021.

If that happens, he adds, "there will be an explosion of developments."

"There are people literally looking at Ireland wondering why we are not doing more in terms of offshore; SSE [Airtricity], for example, has some of the largest land-based wind farms in the country and is currently focused on offshore because that is where they see the future. "

But there is another difficulty with offshore wind energy, says Moran, and that particular element is focused on the costs and expenses involved in settling down.

"It's very expensive, there's going to be a cost to start them up, because a lot of infrastructure will have to be built," he said, "once they're built, the standard turbine in Ireland will be between 3.5MW and 4MW."

"Exciting times"

Meanwhile, he pointed to what the IWEA believes to be "exciting times" en route to Ireland.

"These are very exciting times [but] what we imagine is that in the next four or five years – because we do not have the network connection policy, the legislation or the support scheme needed – these offshore wind farms will not be built, "Moran said.

"But after that, and once they're built, that really will change the game," he added.

Moran also says that the first offshore wind farm will always be the most expensive because those who build the first will also have to build the port facilities.

"Once the shoreline infrastructure is built, costs fall very quickly and there is no need for an initial investment as large as it might have initially been," he continued.

"Now you can imagine a situation where the SSE builds the first port; so they expand and provide a service to other wind farms. So Ireland becomes a much more attractive place to invest.

"There are at least 4 gigawatts of electricity in the Irish Sea that we know … we do not know what floating wind power will give us."


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