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Four Areas Off South Coast Identified for Offshore Wind in State's Draft "DMAP"

4th May 2024
Four areas off the south coast of Ireland have been identified for offshore wind in the state's draft
Four areas off the south coast of Ireland have been identified for offshore wind in the state's draft "DMAP". It is billed as Ireland’s first ever spatial plan for renewable energy at sea

Four areas off the south Irish coast have been earmarked for offshore wind development by the Government, subject to a six-week public consultation.

The draft South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP), billed as Ireland’s first ever spatial plan for renewable energy at sea, was published by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The draft design of the first offshore wind auction to take place in the South Coast DMAP after its adoption has also been published for consultation.

Deployment of fixed offshore wind (fixed-bottom turbines) may take place, subject to the outcome of a six-week public consultation, in the four areas identified as follows:

(1)Tonn Nua (New Wave) is situated off the coast of Co Waterford and encompasses a total marine area of 312.6km². The distance to shore varies from between 12.2km along the western boundary to 12.4km along the northern boundary.

Tonn Nua has a mean water depth of 57m, with a minimum water depth of 48m and a maximum water depth of 69m, giving an overall range of 21m. With a typical density of 4.5MW/km2, a 900MW development would use approximately 65% of the total marine space within Tonn Nua.

(2) Lí Ban (the Mermaid Saint) is situated off the coast of Co Waterford and has a total area of 486km², with distances to shore varying between 49km along the western boundary and 29km along the northern boundary. Lí Ban has a mean water depth of 71m with a minimum water depth of 66m and a maximum water depth of 76m, giving an overall range of 10m.

(3) Manannán (a sea god and divine lord of the Tuatha Dé Dannan) is situated off the south coast of Co Wexford and has a total area of 342km². The distance to shore varies between 52km along the western boundary and 27km along the northern boundary. Manannán has a mean water depth of 69 m with a minimum water depth of 64m and a maximum water depth of 72m, giving an overall range of 8m.

(4) Danú (mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Celtic goddess of nature) is situated off the south coast of Co Wexford and has a total area of 304km². The distance to shore varies between 52km along the western boundary and 27km along the northern boundary. Danu has a mean water depth of 67m with a minimum water depth of 55m and a maximum water depth of 78m, giving an overall range of 23m.

Submissions on the draft terms and conditions for the Tonn Nua offshore auction are requested by June 7th 2024, with the final auction design to be published in early July. The auction is planned to begin before the end of 2024,Ryan’s department says.

An independent economic analysis, published alongside the draft South Coast DMAP, highlights the “potential economic benefits associated with implementation of the plan, which could deliver inward investment of €4.4 billion and an estimated 49,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) years of employment to the Irish economy”, it says.

“The analysis further highlights that more than 65% of inward investment and employment opportunities could be captured by the south coast region,” it says.

“The draft South Coast DMAP is part of a plan-led approach to ensure that offshore renewable energy ( ORE) will only be located in areas off the south coast that are environmentally suitable for such development,” it says.

“Protecting the marine environment and biodiversity and supporting citizens reliant on the sea for their livelihood are central to the sustainable development of the south coast’s ORE potential,” it says.

“The four maritime areas proposed for ORE projects have been identified following a comprehensive environmental assessment process and an almost year-long engagement process with coastal communities and stakeholders, de-risking the DMAPs as much as possible,”it adds.

“This is a hugely significant milestone – the first time the State has developed a forward spatial plan for renewable energy at this scale,” Ryan said.

“Since taking office, it has been a priority of mine and this Government’s to overhaul the regulatory and legislative system so that we could get to this point. We can now plan to run an auction, and the winners can then proceed to deal with a brand-new purpose-developed regulator (MARA) before applying to An Bord Pleanála for development permission,” he said.

“What is also critical is that at all stages of its development, the draft South Coast DMAP has been informed and shaped by close co-operation with local communities and with consideration for all maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production and environmental protection. Now, I encourage people to engage again over the coming six weeks of further consultation,” he said.

“By 2030 and beyond, the development of offshore wind projects in the South Coast DMAP areas will bring enormous economic opportunities for coastal communities, in terms of jobs growth and local community development,”he said.

The draft South Coast DMAP and accompanying environmental assessments will now undergo a six-week statutory public consultation period.

To view the draft South Coast DMAP and for information on how to make a submission to the consultation see here 

The draft design of the first offshore wind auction to take place in the South Coast DMAP after its adoption has been published for consultation and can be viewed here

Lorna Siggins

About The Author

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) - FAQS

Marine protected areas (MPAs) are geographically defined maritime areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources. In addition to conserving marine species and habitats, MPAs can support maritime economic activity and reduce the effects of climate change and ocean acidification.

MPAs can be found across a range of marine habitats, from the open ocean to coastal areas, intertidal zones, bays and estuaries. Marine protected areas are defined areas where human activities are managed to protect important natural or cultural resources.

The world's first MPA is said to have been the Fort Jefferson National Monument in Florida, North America, which covered 18,850 hectares of sea and 35 hectares of coastal land. This location was designated in 1935, but the main drive for MPAs came much later. The current global movement can be traced to the first World Congress on National Parks in 1962, and initiation in 1976 of a process to deliver exclusive rights to sovereign states over waters up to 200 nautical miles out then began to provide new focus

The Rio ‘Earth Summit’ on climate change in 1992 saw a global MPA area target of 10% by the 2010 deadline. When this was not met, an “Aichi target 11” was set requiring 10% coverage by 2020. There has been repeated efforts since then to tighten up MPA requirements.

Marae Moana is a multiple-use marine protected area created on July 13th 2017 by the government of the Cook islands in the south Pacific, north- east of New Zealand. The area extends across over 1.9 million square kilometres. However, In September 2019, Jacqueline Evans, a prominent marine biologist and Goldman environmental award winner who was openly critical of the government's plans for seabed mining, was replaced as director of the park by the Cook Islands prime minister’s office. The move attracted local media criticism, as Evans was responsible for developing the Marae Moana policy and the Marae Moana Act, She had worked on raising funding for the park, expanding policy and regulations and developing a plan that designates permitted areas for industrial activities.

Criteria for identifying and selecting MPAs depends on the overall objective or direction of the programme identified by the coastal state. For example, if the objective is to safeguard ecological habitats, the criteria will emphasise habitat diversity and the unique nature of the particular area.

Permanence of MPAs can vary internationally. Some are established under legislative action or under a different regulatory mechanism to exist permanently into the future. Others are intended to last only a few months or years.

Yes, Ireland has MPA cover in about 2.13 per cent of our waters. Although much of Ireland’s marine environment is regarded as in “generally good condition”, according to an expert group report for Government published in January 2021, it says that biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are of “wide concern due to increasing pressures such as overexploitation, habitat loss, pollution, and climate change”.

The Government has set a target of 30 per cent MPA coverage by 2030, and moves are already being made in that direction. However, environmentalists are dubious, pointing out that a previous target of ten per cent by 2020 was not met.

Conservation and sustainable management of the marine environment has been mandated by a number of international agreements and legal obligations, as an expert group report to government has pointed out. There are specific requirements for area-based protection in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), the OSPAR Convention, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Yes, the Marine Strategy Framework directive (2008/56/EC) required member states to put measures in place to achieve or maintain good environmental status in their waters by 2020. Under the directive a coherent and representative network of MPAs had to be created by 2016.

Ireland was about halfway up the EU table in designating protected areas under existing habitats and bird directives in a comparison published by the European Commission in 2009. However, the Fair Seas campaign, an environmental coalition formed in 2022, points out that Ireland is “lagging behind “ even our closest neighbours, such as Scotland which has 37 per cent. The Fair Seas campaign wants at least 10 per cent of Irish waters to be designated as “fully protected” by 2025, and “at least” 30 per cent by 2030.

Nearly a quarter of Britain’s territorial waters are covered by MPAs, set up to protect vital ecosystems and species. However, a conservation NGO, Oceana, said that analysis of fishing vessel tracking data published in The Guardian in October 2020 found that more than 97% of British MPAs created to safeguard ocean habitats, are being dredged and bottom trawled. 

There’s the rub. Currently, there is no definition of an MPA in Irish law, and environment protections under the Wildlife Acts only apply to the foreshore.

Current protection in marine areas beyond 12 nautical miles is limited to measures taken under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives or the OSPAR Convention. This means that habitats and species that are not listed in the EU Directives, but which may be locally, nationally or internationally important, cannot currently be afforded the necessary protection

Yes. In late March 2022, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien said that the Government had begun developing “stand-alone legislation” to enable identification, designation and management of MPAs to meet Ireland’s national and international commitments.

Yes. Environmental groups are not happy, as they have pointed out that legislation on marine planning took precedence over legislation on MPAs, due to the push to develop offshore renewable energy.

No, but some activities may be banned or restricted. Extraction is the main activity affected as in oil and gas activities; mining; dumping; and bottom trawling

The Government’s expert group report noted that MPA designations are likely to have the greatest influence on the “capture fisheries, marine tourism and aquaculture sectors”. It said research suggests that the net impacts on fisheries could ultimately be either positive or negative and will depend on the type of fishery involved and a wide array of other factors.

The same report noted that marine tourism and recreation sector can substantially benefit from MPA designation. However, it said that the “magnitude of the benefits” will depend to a large extent on the location of the MPA sites within the network and the management measures put in place.

© Afloat 2022

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