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Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna Launch Major New Offshore Wind Partnership

24th November 2022
Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna today launched a major new offshore wind partnership at an event with Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna today launched a major new offshore wind partnership at an event with Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Dun Laoghaire Harbour Credit: Jason Clarke

Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna has launched a major new offshore wind partnership at an event with Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment in Dublin.

The partnership brings together leading international offshore wind energy expert Ocean Winds (OW) with Bord na Móna, one of Ireland’s oldest semi-states working at the forefront of energy technology, to combine their efforts in leveraging Ireland’s offshore wind power resources.

The long-term, exclusive partnership will see Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna co-own, identify and develop offshore wind energy opportunities around the coast of Ireland.

The joint venture initially incorporates two potential projects, Réalt na Mara, off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow, and Celtic Horizon, off the coast of Wexford and Waterford. Engagement on both projects with local communities, stakeholders and the fishing industry is currently underway. The projects have the potential to generate up to 2.3 GW Gigawatts (GW) of clean and renewable electricity to power up to 2.1 million homes by 2030. By reducing Ireland’s reliance on gas and oil it will also help safeguard Irish communities from global energy price fluctuations.

Grzegorz Gorski, COO of Ocean Winds with Bord na Móna Chief Executive Tom Donnellan and Bautista Rodríguez, Chief Executive Officer Ocean Winds. Photo: Jason ClarkeGrzegorz Gorski, COO of Ocean Winds with Bord na Móna Chief Executive Tom Donnellan and Bautista Rodríguez, Chief Executive Officer Ocean Winds. Photo: Jason Clarke

The collaboration marks a significant step forward for Bord na Móna’s commitment to developing clean energy resources. This offshore wind joint venture will specifically support Ireland achieve target of 7GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030.

Ocean Winds, energy leaders ENGIE and EDPR’s joint venture dedicate to offshore wind energy, brings a track record of experience to help develop the offshore renewable industry in Ireland, with a current portfolio of 14 offshore wind farms in 7 countries, with a 14.6 GW of gross capacity, including 1.5 GW already in operation.

Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment commented, “The Irish Government recognises our geographic and climate advantages in terms of wind energy and is developing public policy proposals to support this. This joint venture is a momentous step towards our commitment to produce most of our electricity from renewable sources – up to 80% – by 2030. It also marks a new chapter in Bord na Móna’s 90-year history in supplying energy to local communities across the island. Ocean Winds’ international expertise and record of accomplishment is supporting Ireland to increase its offshore wind capacity. I look forward to this partnership helping to ensure a secure, sustainable, and cost-effective energy future for Ireland.”

Ossian Smyth, Minister of State with responsibility for Public Procurement and eGovernment at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform said, “Today’s launch is a significant step for Bord na Móna in terms of their transition to a leading climate solutions company and supporting and delivering Ireland’s objective, to become carbon neutral by 2050. Ireland, and indeed Bord na Móna, has a great track record of building on shore, now we prove our capabilities offshore. Between creating employment, and providing secure, sustainable and cheaper electricity - the scale and potential benefit to our country is beyond compare. Bord na Móna is repeatedly proving itself to be very much “More than Móna”.

Also speaking at the launch, Grzegorz Gorski, COO of Ocean Winds said, “Ocean Winds is delighted to announce this joint venture today with Bord na Móna which we believe is the perfect pairing of our international expertise with Bord na Móna’s long history working in local communities in Ireland. We look forward to forging a long-term relationship with Bord na Móna to support Ireland in its bid to harness its natural wind resources for a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

Leo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment speaking at the Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna new offshore wind partnershipLeo Varadkar, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment speaking at the Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna new offshore wind partnership

He added, “By working closely with local stakeholders OW aims to bring together communities and to support their development through ongoing engagement and investment with more than a decade’s experience, OW has a strong track record of using our strength as global leaders in the renewables sector to create opportunities for local companies who want to expand and diversify into the emerging offshore wind sector.”

Bord na Móna Chief Executive Tom Donnellan said “Today we are making a giant leap forward towards energy independence for Ireland. Bord na Móna has always been a cornerstone of Irish energy security. We have been developing renewable energy infrastructure since the early 1990s working with communities to deliver a range of lasting local and regional benefits. Ocean Winds bring an incredible wealth of experience in developing and delivering offshore energy from around the globe. Together we will ensure that Ireland’s vast untapped reservoir of offshore energy will be harnessed for the good of Irish society, the economy and the planet. The projects we will develop will be of such a large scale that Ireland will be able to rely on Irish energy sources and massively reduce dependence on foreign pollutants including gas and oil”.

Published in Power From the Sea
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Ireland's Offshore Renewable Energy

Because of Ireland's location at the Atlantic edge of the EU, it has more offshore energy potential than most other countries in Europe. The conditions are suitable for the development of the full range of current offshore renewable energy technologies.

Offshore Renewable Energy FAQs

Offshore renewable energy draws on the natural energy provided by wind, wave and tide to convert it into electricity for industry and domestic consumption.

Offshore wind is the most advanced technology, using fixed wind turbines in coastal areas, while floating wind is a developing technology more suited to deeper water. In 2018, offshore wind provided a tiny fraction of global electricity supply, but it is set to expand strongly in the coming decades into a USD 1 trillion business, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). It says that turbines are growing in size and in power capacity, which in turn is "delivering major performance and cost improvements for offshore wind farms".

The global offshore wind market grew nearly 30% per year between 2010 and 2018, according to the IEA, due to rapid technology improvements, It calculated that about 150 new offshore wind projects are in active development around the world. Europe in particular has fostered the technology's development, led by Britain, Germany and Denmark, but China added more capacity than any other country in 2018.

A report for the Irish Wind Energy Assocation (IWEA) by the Carbon Trust – a British government-backed limited company established to accelerate Britain's move to a low carbon economy - says there are currently 14 fixed-bottom wind energy projects, four floating wind projects and one project that has yet to choose a technology at some stage of development in Irish waters. Some of these projects are aiming to build before 2030 to contribute to the 5GW target set by the Irish government, and others are expected to build after 2030. These projects have to secure planning permission, obtain a grid connection and also be successful in a competitive auction in the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The electricity generated by each turbine is collected by an offshore electricity substation located within the wind farm. Seabed cables connect the offshore substation to an onshore substation on the coast. These cables transport the electricity to land from where it will be used to power homes, farms and businesses around Ireland. The offshore developer works with EirGrid, which operates the national grid, to identify how best to do this and where exactly on the grid the project should connect.

The new Marine Planning and Development Management Bill will create a new streamlined system for planning permission for activity or infrastructure in Irish waters or on the seabed, including offshore wind farms. It is due to be published before the end of 2020 and enacted in 2021.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE.

There are a number of companies aiming to develop offshore wind energy off the Irish coast and some of the larger ones would be ESB, SSE Renewables, Energia, Statkraft and RWE. Is there scope for community involvement in offshore wind? The IWEA says that from the early stages of a project, the wind farm developer "should be engaging with the local community to inform them about the project, answer their questions and listen to their concerns". It says this provides the community with "the opportunity to work with the developer to help shape the final layout and design of the project". Listening to fishing industry concerns, and how fishermen may be affected by survey works, construction and eventual operation of a project is "of particular concern to developers", the IWEA says. It says there will also be a community benefit fund put in place for each project. It says the final details of this will be addressed in the design of the RESS (see below) for offshore wind but it has the potential to be "tens of millions of euro over the 15 years of the RESS contract". The Government is also considering the possibility that communities will be enabled to invest in offshore wind farms though there is "no clarity yet on how this would work", the IWEA says.

Based on current plans, it would amount to around 12 GW of offshore wind energy. However, the IWEA points out that is unlikely that all of the projects planned will be completed. The industry says there is even more significant potential for floating offshore wind off Ireland's west coast and the Programme for Government contains a commitment to develop a long-term plan for at least 30 GW of floating offshore wind in our deeper waters.

There are many different models of turbines. The larger a turbine, the more efficient it is in producing electricity at a good price. In choosing a turbine model the developer will be conscious of this ,but also has to be aware the impact of the turbine on the environment, marine life, biodiversity and visual impact. As a broad rule an offshore wind turbine will have a tip-height of between 165m and 215m tall. However, turbine technology is evolving at a rapid rate with larger more efficient turbines anticipated on the market in the coming years.

 

The Renewable Electricity Support Scheme is designed to support the development of renewable energy projects in Ireland. Under the scheme wind farms and solar farms compete against each other in an auction with the projects which offer power at the lowest price awarded contracts. These contracts provide them with a guaranteed price for their power for 15 years. If they obtain a better price for their electricity on the wholesale market they must return the difference to the consumer.

Yes. The first auction for offshore renewable energy projects is expected to take place in late 2021.

Cost is one difference, and technology is another. Floating wind farm technology is relatively new, but allows use of deeper water. Ireland's 50-metre contour line is the limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind farms, and it is also very close to population centres, which makes visibility of large turbines an issue - hence the attraction of floating structures Do offshore wind farms pose a navigational hazard to shipping? Inshore fishermen do have valid concerns. One of the first steps in identifying a site as a potential location for an offshore wind farm is to identify and assess the level of existing marine activity in the area and this particularly includes shipping. The National Marine Planning Framework aims to create, for the first time, a plan to balance the various kinds of offshore activity with the protection of the Irish marine environment. This is expected to be published before the end of 2020, and will set out clearly where is suitable for offshore renewable energy development and where it is not - due, for example, to shipping movements and safe navigation.

YEnvironmental organisations are concerned about the impact of turbines on bird populations, particularly migrating birds. A Danish scientific study published in 2019 found evidence that larger birds were tending to avoid turbine blades, but said it didn't have sufficient evidence for smaller birds – and cautioned that the cumulative effect of farms could still have an impact on bird movements. A full environmental impact assessment has to be carried out before a developer can apply for planning permission to develop an offshore wind farm. This would include desk-based studies as well as extensive surveys of the population and movements of birds and marine mammals, as well as fish and seabed habitats. If a potential environmental impact is identified the developer must, as part of the planning application, show how the project will be designed in such a way as to avoid the impact or to mitigate against it.

A typical 500 MW offshore wind farm would require an operations and maintenance base which would be on the nearby coast. Such a project would generally create between 80-100 fulltime jobs, according to the IWEA. There would also be a substantial increase to in-direct employment and associated socio-economic benefit to the surrounding area where the operation and maintenance hub is located.

The recent Carbon Trust report for the IWEA, entitled Harnessing our potential, identified significant skills shortages for offshore wind in Ireland across the areas of engineering financial services and logistics. The IWEA says that as Ireland is a relatively new entrant to the offshore wind market, there are "opportunities to develop and implement strategies to address the skills shortages for delivering offshore wind and for Ireland to be a net exporter of human capital and skills to the highly competitive global offshore wind supply chain". Offshore wind requires a diverse workforce with jobs in both transferable (for example from the oil and gas sector) and specialist disciplines across apprenticeships and higher education. IWEA have a training network called the Green Tech Skillnet that facilitates training and networking opportunities in the renewable energy sector.

It is expected that developing the 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy identified in the Government's Climate Action Plan would create around 2,500 jobs in construction and development and around 700 permanent operations and maintenance jobs. The Programme for Government published in 2020 has an enhanced target of 5 GW of offshore wind which would create even more employment. The industry says that in the initial stages, the development of offshore wind energy would create employment in conducting environmental surveys, community engagement and development applications for planning. As a site moves to construction, people with backgrounds in various types of engineering, marine construction and marine transport would be recruited. Once the site is up and running , a project requires a team of turbine technicians, engineers and administrators to ensure the wind farm is fully and properly maintained, as well as crew for the crew transfer vessels transporting workers from shore to the turbines.

The IEA says that today's offshore wind market "doesn't even come close to tapping the full potential – with high-quality resources available in most major markets". It estimates that offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 420 000 Terawatt hours per year (TWh/yr) worldwide – as in more than 18 times the current global electricity demand. One Terawatt is 114 megawatts, and to put it in context, Scotland it has a population a little over 5 million and requires 25 TWh/yr of electrical energy.

Not as advanced as wind, with anchoring a big challenge – given that the most effective wave energy has to be in the most energetic locations, such as the Irish west coast. Britain, Ireland and Portugal are regarded as most advanced in developing wave energy technology. The prize is significant, the industry says, as there are forecasts that varying between 4000TWh/yr to 29500TWh/yr. Europe consumes around 3000TWh/year.

The industry has two main umbrella organisations – the Irish Wind Energy Association, which represents both onshore and offshore wind, and the Marine Renewables Industry Association, which focuses on all types of renewable in the marine environment.

©Afloat 2020

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