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Ireland, Belgium and Britain have signed a new co-operation agreement on renewable energy and electricity interconnections between the three states.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has signed the agreement in Bruges with his Belgian and British ministerial counterparts, Tinne van der Straeten and Andrew Bowie MP.

The joint statement will allow for closer cooperation in offshore wind energy between the three countries.

It also builds on the ambition declared at the North Sea Summit, held in Ostend last year and attended by the then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Ryan, to accelerate the development of offshore wind in the North Seas, including the Irish Sea, Celtic Sea and Atlantic Ocean.

Together, the nine countries involved in the Ostend Declaration have set offshore wind targets of about 120GW by 2030 and 300GW by 2050 in the North Sea.

The North Sea currently has a combined capacity of less than 30GW.

A working group will be established between the three countries, which will produce a report on the shared challenges, opportunities and solutions to developing offshore renewable energy infrastructure.

As part of this, Eirgrid, in line with Ireland’s own interconnection policy, and as part of the development of the country’s forward-looking transmission strategy, will engage with its counterparts in Belgium and Britain, Ryan’s department says.

Eirgrid and counterparts will report back to their respective ministries with options for trilateral arrangements between the three countries including any challenges related to these options, the department said.

It is expected that this work will be completed in the first half of 2025.

“Increased electricity interconnection is key as we continue to grow our use of renewable energy,”Ryan said.

“One of the best characteristics of renewable energy is that it is, firstly, home grown and accessible to every country. A second key characteristic is that it works best if it can be shared,”he said.

“ When we have excess offshore wind capacity in Ireland, for example, it makes sense that we utilise and store what we need but that we can also share our surplus supply with our neighbours through international cooperation and interconnection. It reduces costs, through sharing surplus energy, through sharing reserves and by ensuring the most competitive power sources are used first,”he said.

“One year after the North Sea Summit in Ostend, the new cooperation we are exploring today is another step forward in achieving the goal set by the nine participating countries who met and pledged to make the North Seas – including the Atlantic North Seas – as the wind powerhouse for Europe. Our future energy security is renewable but above all our future energy security is shared renewable,” van der Straeten said.

“Princess Elisabeth Island will unlock Belgium's second offshore wind zone. It will also serve as a landing point for future hybrid interconnectors,”the Belgian minister continued.

“With this partnership, Ireland, Britain and Belgium are realising the ambitions set out at the North Sea Summit in Ostend a year ago: to make the North Sea the largest sustainable power plant in Europe,”she said.

“The key now is to implement the actions to follow through on those ambitions and power our green future. Thanks to this joint statement, we can explore a promising opportunity for interconnection between our three countries,”she said.

Britain’s Minister for Nuclear and Renewables Andrew Bowie said the North Sea has “the potential to be a renewable energy powerhouse, and we will always look to collaborate with our neighbours to explore how we can make the most of it”.

“Not only do we share seas with our Belgian and Irish allies, but we share a common interest in cutting emissions and powering our homes with cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy, “he said.

The joint statement was signed on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting on offshore wind energy organised by the Belgian energy minister under the Belgian EU presidency.

Published in Power From the Sea
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A Fine Gael MEP has called for EU investment in Irish ports to support development of renewable energy.

Midlands-North-West MEP Colm Markey warned that Ireland cannot achieve energy security, and consumers will continue to face unpredictable energy costs unless there’s a significant scale-up in renewable energy production.

The MEP is hosting a conference, entitled “Europe’s Energy Future: Ireland’s Opportunity,” in Dundalk Institute of Technology, this Friday (February 2nd).

“We can discuss ambitious renewable energy targets day in day out, but nobody seems to be addressing the elephant in the room,”Markey said.

“When it comes to the rollout of offshore wind development in particular, there are too many bottlenecks with no plan to address them. Our ambition is not matched with delivery, and a major re-think is needed,” he said.

“Ports such as Drogheda, Bremore, Galway and others across the country will have a vital role to play in facilitating the development of renewable energy by offering service hubs, turbine construction sites and green hydrogen production,” he said.

“It’s imperative that the EU and the Irish Government invest in Ireland’s port infrastructure,” he said, identifying this as one of five key areas requiring action.

He outlined the other four key areas as planning reform, including designation of “renewable acceleration areas” where planning consents can be expedited; expanded grid capacity’ investment in long-term skills and training; and addressing supply chain issues,including the need to “build-up local production” and ensure “abundant access to a range of raw materials.”

Published in Ports & Shipping

The University of Galway has confirmed the successful testing of a next-generation marine hydrokinetic turbine foil for renewable energy.

The technology was designed by US-headquartered global leader in marine energy ORPC Ireland and fabricated by ÉireComposites, based Indreabhán, Co Galway.

A five-metre long foil has been made from high-performance, carbon fibre reinforced polymer, shaped similarly to an airplane wing.

When placed perpendicular to river or tidal currents, the foils spin under that force and the technology sends clean, renewable energy via an underwater generator, the designers say.

The technology underwent intense stress testing in the university’s large structures testing laboratory to demonstrate its ability to withstand operational loads over its design lifetime.

Prior to completing the testing campaign, a destructive static test was performed on the foil to demonstrate its structural integrity at loads well in excess of what is expected during operation in the marine environment.

The testing programme is part of the €3.9 million European Commission’s Horizon 2020-funded CRIMSON project, and involved 1.3 million fatigue cycles on the turbine foil – the highest number ever reported on a full-scale marine energy component in dry laboratory conditions.

The tests were led by the university’s sustainable and resilient structures research group which is part of the Enterprise Ireland-supported technology centre Construct Innovate and the University’s Ryan Institute.

“The combination of such high-level design and manufacturing with University of Galway’s state-of-the-art testing will improve the reliability of river and tidal energy devices as they move closer to commercial viability,”Dr William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator of CRIMSON at the University of Galway, said.

Tomás Flanagan, chief executive of ÉireComposites, said his company was delighted that the turbine foils it had made had performed so well during testing.

“The foils have a complex helical shape and are challenging to manufacture; they are a credit to the engineers and technicians who worked on the project,”he said.

Dr William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator on the CRIMSON project at the University of Galway, inspects the 5m carbon fibre reinforced polymer foil, which has undergone successful stress testing at the University’s Large Structures Testing Laboratory ahead of being trialled in the marine environment in the 80kW RivGen marine hydrokinetic energy turbineDr William Finnegan, Assistant Professor and Principal Investigator on the CRIMSON project at the University of Galway, inspects the 5m carbon fibre reinforced polymer foil, which has undergone successful stress testing at the University’s Large Structures Testing Laboratory ahead of being trialled in the marine environment in the 80kW RivGen marine hydrokinetic energy turbine

“We’re delighted to see our work with ORPC Ireland, University of Galway, and the other partners coming to fruition and we’re excited about the commercial potential for marine hydrokinetic devices in delivering clean, sustainable energy,”he said.

“At a time when global interest is focused on achieving a net-zero emission future, it is great to be making advances in the technology that supports this global shift,” he said.

The successful testing was also welcomed by Patrick Cronin, Director of European Operations at ORPC Ireland.

The next phase of the project will involve trials with the complete turbine in operational conditions at Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche’s large towing tank in Rome, Italy.

Published in Power From the Sea

Ireland’s transition to offshore renewable energy and other energy measures will cost at least €129bn in investment between 2024 and 2030, a report by the Davy Group estimates.

This equates to over €18.5bn investment per year or 6.8% of modified Gross National Income (GNI) and is comparable with international norms of c. 5% of GNI, the wealth management and capital markets group says.

This is roughly equivalent to €25,000 per individual by 2030, the report by Dr Fergal McNamara, senior policy director at Davy, says.

The Davy White Paper, published today and entitled “Investing in tomorrow: Shaping a Net Zero future” examines how this investment will be funded and by whom.

Of the €129bn investment on dedicated energy transition measures, the private sector will account for 85% of planned investment, it says.

This will be driven by electrification of energy and transport and retrofitting of homes and businesses,

Dr McNamara’s analysis is focused on dedicated energy transition measures, but he notes that total investment on measures substantially attributable to climate, including tens of billions of euro of planned investment under the National Development Plan, will likely exceed €150bn.

This makes it the largest-ever investment by the State, households and businesses.

“Though these are punchy numbers, they dwarf the environmental, economic, political and social costs of doing nothing, as evidenced by the destruction and cost of recent flooding in East Cork. EU fines and reputational damage will also keep Ireland’s “feet to the fire” to deliver on climate change objectives or suffer even greater cost over the longer term, he said.

Published in Power From the Sea
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The British Labour Party has promised to fast-track infrastructure such as wind turbines, pylons and solar farms through the planning system and to protect developers from legal challenges.

The Labour Party has promised British voters it will pledge to protect significant infrastructure from “vexatious” legal action by offering clearer guidance to developers, and will offer local communities “sweeteners” such as cheaper energy for accepting wind turbines in their area.

As The Times newspaper reports, the Labour Party has said it will initiate a review of national planning statements to ensure that priorities like net zero and economic growth play a key role in decisions.

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves says cheaper energy will be offered as “sweeteners” to local communities closest to offshore and onshore renewable projects

She has promised that a Labour government will overhaul Britain’s “antiquated” planning system.

“If the Tories won’t build, if the Tories can’t build, then we will. Taking head-on the obstacles presented by our antiquated planning system,” she has said.

“We will set clear objectives, hardwiring national priorities like economic growth and net zero into the planning system, as is done in Germany,” her party has said.

Read more in The Times here (subscription required)

Published in Power From the Sea

Swedish energy giant Vattenfall’s decision to stop work on a multi-billion euro windfarm off the Norfolk coast has dealt a blow to Britain’s renewable energy targets.

As The Guardian reports, Vattenfall said it was no longer profitable to work on the Norfolk Boreas windfarm, designed to provide power to the equivalent of 1.5 million British homes.

Jess Ralston of Britain’s Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit think tank said the withdrawal was influenced by the British government’s decision to set the starting price for the next contract auction before a global rise in market prices.

International increases in gas prices have led to a 40 per cent increase in manufacturing costs, which has put “significant pressure on all new offshore wind projects, Vattenfall said.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to continue this project,” Vattenfall’s chief executive Anna Borg is quoted as saying.

“Higher inflation and capital costs are affecting the entire energy sector, but the geopolitical situation has made offshore wind and its supply chain particularly vulnerable.”

Vattenfall secured the contract to build the Norfolk Boreas project last year after bidding what is described as a “record low price” of £37.35 (43.46 euro) per megawatt hour for electricity generated.

Read The Guardian report here

Published in Power From the Sea
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The ESB and the Port of Cork Company have signed a memorandum of understanding regarding joint plans for Ireland’s offshore wind and green hydrogen development, as the Irish Examiner reports.

A key factor of Port of Cork’s masterplan is aiming to position the city and its natural, deep-channel harbour at the forefront of Ireland’s growing offshore renewable energy sector.

And with the ESB’s Net Zero by 2040 seeing collaboration as critical to the development of green energy in Ireland, the partnership comes at an opportune time.

The Irish Examiner has more on the story HERE.

Published in Power From the Sea

IberBlue Wind, a joint venture focused on the development of floating offshore wind farm projects, is commencing operations in Spain and Portugal with the aim of becoming one of the leading players in the offshore market off the Iberian Peninsula.

The company presented its strategic plans for the market today in Madrid. Its three backers - Global Irish company Simply Blue Group and the Spanish companies Proes Consultores and FF New Energy Ventures - have collectively extensive international experience in renewable project development. Thanks to this alliance, IberBlue Wind has the capacity to take on all phases of floating offshore wind farm development.

Simply Blue Group is a global developer of floating offshore wind farms with projects in Ireland, UK, US, Poland, and Sweden. Simply Blue Group currently has a pipeline of 10GW of projects under development. As part of its growth strategy, the company is now expanding into the Spanish and Portuguese markets.

Proes Consultores is the specialised engineering and architecture division of the Amper Group, with broad experience in the marine and coastal engineering sectors. Proes Consultores offers engineering, industrial and technological services and has participated in the design of Kincardine, a floating wind project in Scotland. Proes is one of the companies integrated into the Amper Group, a multidisciplinary group that also counts amongst its subsidiaries, Nervión Offshore, a global leader in the construction and assembly of offshore wind farms.

The third member is FF New Energy Ventures, a leader in the development, construction, and operation of solar photovoltaic and renewable energy plants in Spain, which has incorporated offshore wind energy into its portfolio. It is currently developing solar PV, wind and BESS projects in Spain and Portugal, having so far created a portfolio of 2 GW between the two countries, with more than 0.5 GW with connection rights already secured.

Supported by the alliance of these three leading companies, IberBlue Wind will participate in the public auctions for offshore sites off Spain and Portugal and will undertake the early development and design of the projects in advance of the construction and commissioning of wind turbines. To this end, its aim is to develop around 2 GW of floating offshore wind capacity off the Iberian Peninsula, comprising wind farms each of 500MW or more.

Initially, IberBlue Wind will focus on two strategically selected regions. In Spain, it will start in Andalusia, where it aspires to lead the promotion of offshore wind energy as a new economic engine for the region; and Galicia, one of the communities with the greatest potential for this form of renewable energy. In Portugal, IberBlue Wind will focus on the central and northern parts of the country where there is an excellent wind energy resource.

Iberian offshore wind market leadership potential

During the launch, Adrián de Andrés, Vice President of IberBlue Wind, highlighted "the potential for Spain and Portugal to become world leaders in offshore wind generation, as both countries have excellent wind resources, a long history in coastal engineering and first-class public works".

IberBlue Wind can play a key role in delivering this goal because, as De Andrés said, "we can leverage our knowledge and experience acquired in floating offshore wind projects in Great Britain, Ireland and elsewhere, in the Iberian market.” In his speech, the Vice President also called for the Spanish government to be "more ambitious" in the tendering of offshore wind farms. In this context, he stated that the generation capacity of these facilities in Spain could reach more than 10GW in the long-term future.

This generation capacity is much higher than initially envisaged in the Roadmap for Offshore Wind and Marine Energy Development, which has set a target of between 1 and 3GW by 2030. The current draft of the Marine Spatial Plan assigns a space for offshore wind that only covers 0.8% of the available maritime space along its 8,000km of coastline; a density that he described as "conservative" if one considers that leading countries such as Scotland already allocate around 2.5%.

Regarding Portugal, Adrián de Andrés considers that its legislation "is ready to provide exclusive maritime space for wind energy, although a regulation is needed to establish the procedure for the auctioning of these development rights". In Portugal, which has 987 kilometres of coastline, the government has committed to producing 8GW of ocean renewable energy in the coming years, almost double the 5.6GW of current onshore wind power generation capacity.

Offshore energy, under discussion

The presentation also included the round table "Offshore wind: the challenge of blue energy in the Iberian market", with the participation of Juan Ramón Ayuso, Head of the Wind and Offshore Energy Department of the Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving (IDAE); Tomás Romagosa, Technical Director of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE); Antonio Sarmento, President of WavEC Offshore Renewables of Portugal and Dorleta Marina, Portfolio Director of IberBlue Wind.

The experts analysed the current legislative context in Spain and Portugal and explained the main challenges facing the sector in the coming years.

About IberBlue Wind

IberBlue Wind is a joint venture developing offshore floating wind farm projects for the Iberian market. The partners are Simply Blue Group, a leader in offshore floating wind energy globally, and Spanish companies Proes Consultores, the engineering division of Grupo Amper, and FF New Energy Ventures (FF NEV), a developer of renewable projects. IberBlue’s objective is to help Spain and Portugal position themselves as leaders in this field of renewable energies.

Using its knowledge of the market and its extensive experience in the area of offshore wind farm development, IberBlue Wind will take advantage of the greater intensity of offshore wind to generate clean and efficient electricity from renewable sources.

To this end, IberBlue Wind aims to develop around 2GW of offshore wind energy capacity off the peninsula comprised of wind farms each of 500MW or more.

Published in Environment

Energy ministers linked to the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) and the European Commission have pledged a “significant increase in their collective ambition” in the deployment of offshore renewable energy.

Nine NSEC countries, including Ireland, which met in Dublin today under the Irish co-presidency, agreed on what they describe as “aggregate, non-binding offshore renewable energy targets for the maritime area of the entire NSEC region”.

The nine NSEC countries have agreed to reach at least 260GW of offshore wind energy by 2050.

This will represent more than 85% of the EU-wide ambition to reach 300GW by 2050.

The NSEC is a regional non-binding and voluntary EU cooperation framework which aims to advance the development of offshore renewable energy in the geographical area of the North Seas, including the Irish and Celtic Seas.

The nine NSEC countries have agreed to reach at least 260GW of offshore wind energy by 2050The nine NSEC countries have agreed to reach at least 260GW of offshore wind energy by 2050

It is associated with a political declaration adopted in 2016, and members including Ireland are Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the European Commission.

The group reiterated their commitment that cooperation within the NSEC will be the framework for achieving their increased offshore ambitions.

Commenting at the meeting, Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan said that “in Ireland alone our sea area is seven times our landmass”.

“The North Atlantic and North Sea comprise some of the windiest locations on the globe. It is our greatest collective resource of continuous energy and it is momentous that we have agreed today to be ambitious in our targets, as a collective,”he said.

“ Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and the consequential energy price shock and security of supply crisis has shown us how crucial it is that we move away, as quickly as possible, from our reliance on expensive and ransomed fossil fuels,”Ryan said.

“ It has also shown us how important unity across the European Union has been in responding to this crisis. When it comes to realising the potential of offshore wind, again, it is best that we work in unity, that we set agreed targets, and that we operate as a collective,”he said.

“With this approach, we can provide assurances to householders and businesses – in our own countries and across Europe – that firstly, Europe will be energy independent, and secondly, that these new renewable energy sources and resultant hydrogen from our seas will be fairly shared and, critically, will be affordable,” he said.

EU Commissioner for Energy, Kadri Simson said that the commitment is “a great example of the kind of regional cooperation that the Commission envisaged in our Offshore Renewable Energy Strategy”.

“It is impressive that the target agreed by nine NSEC countries constitutes more than 85% of the EU-wide ambition we outlined two years ago. The green energy transition has only become more urgent since Russia's invasion of Ukraine,”Simson said.

“The acceleration of renewables deployment is one of the three pillars of the REPowerEU Plan to end our dependence on Russian fossil fuels. Increasing renewable energy will not only help to improve the sustainability of our energy sector, it will improve our security of supply and the affordability of energy – two challenges that we are facing in the EU at the moment,”Simson said

The EU ambition of achieving 300 GW of offshore wind by 2050 is as set out in the EU strategy for offshore renewable energy.

Published in Power From the Sea
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Oceanographers at Bangor University in Wales are calling for research into the environmental impact of turbulence caused by tidal flow past floating deep-water wind farms.

New research is needed to fully understand how locating varying types of wind turbines could affect not only the seabed, but the waters, and everything they contain, according to Dr Ben Lincoln of Bangor University.

Britain leads offshore wind energy production globally, with current power generation meeting one-third of the national demand (~10GW), and floating wind in deep shelf sea areas has been identified as a major route in the “net zero” goal.

A current target to produce 50GW by 2030 is an increase of 67% on the target set just 12 months ago.

However, Dr Lincoln and fellow researchers notes that offshore sites at a depth of over 50 metres are very different in nature to shallow coastal sites used so far.

They say that with an additional 20,000 wind turbines set to be built in British water, there is a need to ensure full awareness of the positive and negative effects their presence could have on the surrounding environment.

“Our shelf seas are fully mixed during winter, but during summer months the deeper regions stratify, with a warm surface layer overlying the cooler water below,”Dr Lincoln has said in a statement.

“ This triggers a phytoplankton bloom which can be seen from space and forms the base of the marine food chain, supporting fish, seabirds and whales,”he explains.

“ During summer months following the spring bloom, phytoplankton growth is supported by nutrients stirred up from below by turbulence associated with wind and tides. This turbulence also mixes oxygen down to the deep water, where it is required for other key biological processes,”he notes.

A diagram shows the potential impact of wind infrastructure mixing in stratified water. Flow past the floating foundations show a wider area of possible mixing between the surface and deep waters behind the tethered turbines sited in the deeper water and beyondA diagram shows the potential impact of wind infrastructure mixing in stratified water. Flow past the floating foundations show a wider area of possible mixing between the surface and deep waters behind the tethered turbines sited in the deeper water and beyond

“Environmental assessments for the shallow shelf seas have focused on wildlife using or living within the affected areas. The difference with the deeper seas is that the fundamental functioning of the seas themselves could be affected,” Lincoln says.

“Turbulent mixing determines the timing and rate of the food supply on which marine ecosystem and key species rely. Flow past deep water wind farms will introduce ‘anthropogenic’ or man-made turbulence, and increase mixing,”he says.

“ This fundamental change could lead to significant regional impacts, which must be assessed. However, impacts are not necessarily negative, with the potential to enhance productivity and offset the impact of increasing stratification due to climate change,”he says.

“There’s no doubt that this growth in renewable energy is essential to meet global 2050 net zero commitments,” he says.

More details are in a research paper: Anthropogenic Mixing in Seasonally Stratified Shelf Seas by Offshore Wind Farm Infrastructure, published in Frontiers.

Published in Power From the Sea
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ESB’s 2040 strategy Driven to Make a Difference: Net Zero by 2040 sets out a clear roadmap for ESB to achieve net zero emissions by 2040. 

ESB will develop and connect renewable energy to decarbonise the electricity system by 2040. ESB will invest in the development of new renewable generation, including onshore and offshore wind and solar, and will significantly increase the amount of renewable generation connected to our electricity networks.

ESB will:

  • Deliver more than a fivefold increase in our renewable generation portfolio to 5,000MW.
  • Reduce carbon intensity of generation fleet from 414 to 140gCO2/kWh by 2030.
  • Decarbonise 63% of our generation output by 2030 and 100% by 2040 (up from c20% now).

Offshore wind

ESB know the importance of offshore wind in tackling climate change and delivering net zero. Ireland has a unique capability given its prime location to take advantage of the potential of offshore wind. ESB are working hard to develop offshore wind projects for the benefit of everyone across society in Ireland and the UK. This includes ongoing engagement with marine users and local communities so ESB can deliver these significant projects.

Offshore wind will play a major role globally in our fight against climate change. It will help to replace energy generated by burning fossil fuels with that from a clean, safe and secure renewable energy source. Ireland’s geographic location on the exposed edge of the Atlantic presents us with a significant opportunity to generate electricity from wind – both offshore and onshore.

Power from onshore wind farms currently provide over one-third of Ireland’s electricity needs. But, whilst its marine area is many times the size of its landmass, Ireland’s offshore wind potential is only starting to be realised. ESB have a coastline stretching over 3,000km but only one operational offshore wind farm – Arklow Bank, with a capacity of 25 MW. In contrast, Belgium’s coastline is only 63km long, but it has already developed more than 2,000 MW of offshore wind. In Great Britain, with a coastline four times the length of ours, offshore wind generation now equates to over 440 Arklow Banks, with an installed capacity of 11,0000 MW as of late 2021.

The Irish Government's target to install 5,000 MW of offshore wind capacity in our maritime area by 2030 is set out in the Climate Action Plan 2021. It also has the objective to source 80% of Ireland’s electricity needs from renewables by the same year. In line with this, ESB is applying its professional and proven engineering expertise to the challenges set within the Climate Action Plan.

ESB are committed to playing a strong role in developing Ireland’s offshore wind potential for the benefit of the people of Ireland. This will be done in consultation with marine users and local communities, and with due care for the marine environment.