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The Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard team was tasked to assist National Ambulance Service (NAS) with a casualty on a yacht at Dun Laoghaire Harbour on St Stephen's Day.

The RNLI Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat and Dublin Fire Brigade also attended. The casualty was treated on scene by the inshore lifeboat crew and staff at the town marina until paramedics arrived.

The casualty was then stretchered to an awaiting ambulance.

While packing up after the incident, a member of the public alerted the Coast Guard to someone who had fallen on the road near the marina. An ambulance was already called for by other members of the public but the Coast Guard team provided initial first aid treatment and care until they arrived. 

The Irish Coast Guard, a Division of the Department of Transport has vacancies for Watch Officers at its three Marine Rescue Coordination Centres in Dublin, Malin Head, Co Donegal and Valentia, Co Kerry. The IRCG provides a nationwide maritime emergency service as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

Watch Officers are responsible for watch-keeping on the marine emergency frequencies and are required to act as Search and Rescue Mission Co-ordination Officers (SMCs) and Marine Alert and Notification Officers. They process marine communication traffic, respond to ship casualty and pollution incidents, monitor vessel traffic schemes and coordinate Coast Guard aviation operations.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications is 3 pm on Thursday, 6th January 2022.

For more information and how to apply, visit: https://bit.ly/Afloat_Ad_WatchO

The Public Appointments Service is committed to a policy of equal opportunity and encourage applications under all nine grounds of the Employment Equality Act.

Published in Jobs
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People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith has said the next contract for search and rescue aviation services should not be awarded to CHC Ireland.

Such services should be operated by the State, Ms Smith said.

She was speaking in the Dáil yesterday (November 17) during statements on the Air Accident Investigation Unit’s (AAIU) final report into the loss of four lives in the Irish Coast Guard Rescue 116 helicoper crash off Mayo in March 2017.

The final AAIU report published on November 5th made 71 findings and 42 recommendations in relation to the Sikorsky S-92 crash, which claimed the lives of Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch crew Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

The bodies of the winch crew have still not been recovered.

Addressing Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan in the Dáil chamber, Ms Smith noted that he had referred to it as “a tragic, unforeseen accident”.

"I don’t believe this was a tragic, unforeseen accident"

“But I don’t believe this was a tragic, unforeseen accident, because when you prioritise costs in tendering out core services then you create very serious risk and cost of life,” Ms Smith said.

The Rescue 116 crew were employed by CHC Ireland which holds the current Irish Coast Guard contract to run four search and rescue aviation bases. A tender for the new contract is currently underway.

Referring to navigational issues, she questioned the “light-touch regulation” and the role of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

“If we are to fully honour the crew of 116, and indeed to honour all of the Air Corps and sea rescue personnel, then we have to do more than simply accept the recommendations in this report,” Ms Smith said.

“We have to end the light-touch regulation in bodies like the IAA, and we have to end the tendering and obsession with cutting costs for vital public services and ensure the State operates such vital services itself,” she said.

“If you award that contract to CHC...then the dedicated staff and the personnel that are employed to look after our safety at sea and to rescue us will we be highly insulted,” she told the minister.

“ I think it would be an absolute irony and a tragedy for the State to do this,” she added.

Ms Smith expressed solidarity with the families of the four crew and said the State owed them an apology.

She also questioned why the final report had been sent for review, delaying its publication by over two years.

Opening the two hour debate, Minister Ryan said he accepted all of the recommendations relating to his department.

While it would take some time for his department to deal with each of the findings, he said he would formally respond to all of the safety recommendations ahead of a 90-day timeframe for him to do so.

The AAIU had concluded that the tragedy was an "organisational accident", he said, and he outlined a number of measures taken by his department to improve search and rescue operations, including publication of a national search and rescue plan.

A review of all training for Irish Coast Guard staff had taken place, and there had been a formal course on tasking of aviation assets.

New legislation would formalise the role of the IAA on oversight of search and rescue.

Mr Ryan explained that his department had asked that the IAA’s role as civil regulator be reviewed by external experts this year, and it found no gaps under the Irish Aviation Act 1993 in meeting obligations.

He paid tribute to the work of the AAIU and to the four Rescue 116 crew and expressed sympathies to their families.

Sympathies were also expressed by a number of deputies participating in the debate.

Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly expressed frustration that such a short time frame had been allotted for considering such a lengthy and detailed report at 350 pages.

Sinn Féin’s transport spokesman Darren O’Rourke said that accepting the findings of the report alone was not enough.

He called on the minister to provide a timeline for when each of the 42 safety recommendations would be implemented.

Mr O’Rourke asked what mechanism would be used to ensure the different parties, to which recommendations were addressed, would comply with the report on a coordinated basis.

Mayo Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway Walsh welcomed the minister’s commitment, and said robust and thorough action was required to ensure crews had confidence in their working environment.

People living in her constituency in Erris had a special place in their hearts for the sacrifice made by the four crew on the morning of March 14th, 2017, she said.

Labour TD Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin read the statement on the AAIU report by the Irish Airline Pilots Association into the Dáil record, and noted that the pilots’ union had said that the loss of life was as "needless as it was preventable".

Fianna Fáil TD for Mayo Dara Calleary and Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy also questioned why search and rescue aviation was not being run by the State.

Mr Calleary paid tribute to the communities in Erris and north Mayo who had rallied to provide support during the extended search effort.

Irish Coast Guard volunteers who were on call 24/7 deserved dignity and respect, which they were not getting at present, Mr Calleary said.

The loss of four Air Corps search and rescue helicopter crew in the Dauphin crash off Tramore, Co Waterford in 1999 was recalled by two Waterford deputies - Independent TD Matt Shanahan and Green Party TD Marc Ó Cathasaigh.

Mr Shanahan recalled that Capt Dave O'Flaherty, Capt Mick Baker, Sgt Paddy Mooney and Cpl Niall Byrne died shortly after midnight on July 2nd, 1999, while returning from a rescue mission off the Waterford coast.

He said the State needed to install a permanent fixed wing aircraft based in Dublin to provide top cover for search and rescue, assist in marine pollution, and with patient transfer capability.

He also queried the delay in rolling out night vision goggles for all search and rescue.

Members of the house observed a moment of silence in memory of the four Rescue 116 crew who died in the crash at the close of the debate.

Published in Coastguard
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John O’Mahony, Chairman of the first representative association for Coast Guard volunteers, says that “Personnel issues are the worst failing in the Coast Guard. It’s like a blind spot.”

He was Deputy Officer-in-Charge of the Toe Head Unit, originally the ‘Coast and Cliff Rescue’ before the Coast Guard was re-named and amalgamated with the Glandore Unit in West Cork. Toe Head is on the coastal edge south of Castletownshend and Glandore in West Cork.

O’Mahony runs Belco Marine Electronics Ltd., in Skibbereen and has experience in the fishing industry and the Defence Forces.

The Coast Guard is a vital lifesaving service. Its Volunteers are crucial to its successful operation. Still, the Volunteer issues are a cause for concern when a Unit like that at Doolin is taken off its operational role because members resigned. Catriona Lucas, who died during a search operation in Kilkee, was a member of the Doolin Unit. The new representative association was publicly launched in Kilkee.

Reporting issues in the management and operations of the Coast Guard has been a challenge. I have had many calls, some supportive, others with information and some rather vitriolic, condemning media reports and denying any personnel problems.

John O’Mahony told me on my Maritime Ireland Radio Show that the new association is now seeking “an urgent meeting” with Transport Minister Eamonn Ryan and Minister of State at the Department, which has responsibility for the Coast Guard, Hildegarde Naughton.

Listen to my Podcast with John O'Mahony here

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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After decades of searching, researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Coast Guard have located the shipwreck of the former U.S. Revenue Cutter, Bear.

The wreck of the Bear, which was lost at sea in 1963, is about 90 miles south of Cape Sable in Nova Scotia.

It was considered an amazing coincidence when the wreck was one of two targets initially located during an expedition two years by the current Coastguard cutter, also named Bear and which it was decided to explore further by USCG and NOAA teams this year by the larger and better equipped USCG's ocean-going buoy tender, Sycamore, with an advanced remotely operated vehicle (ROV) equipped with high-resolution underwater video cameras to to document the "unidentified wreck".

The team was able to collect evidence to positively identify the wreck.

Considered one of the most historically significant ships in U.S. and Coast Guard history, USRC Bear was built in Scotland in 1874 and purchased by the U.S. government in 1884.It was originally put into service by the U.S. Navy during the Arctic search for the Greely Expedition, where she earned her initial fame as the vessel that rescued the few survivors of that expedition. In 1885, Bear was transferred from the Treasury Department for service in the Arctic as a Revenue Cutter, where she patrolled for 41 years. After serving in the Greenland Patrols during World War II, the Bear was decommissioned in 1944 and was lost at sea while being towed to Philadelphia by a private party in 1963.

Researchers have been searching for the Bear since 1979. In 2007, a search was coordinated by the U.S. Navy but was ultimately unsuccessful. In recent years, NOAA and the U.S. Coast Guard have teamed up with other partners to locate the wreck site. The U.S. Revenue Cutter Service was established by Congress in 1790, operating under the Department of Treasury and later merged with the U.S. Life-Saving Service to form the United States Coast Guard.

Published in Historic Boats
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Bundoran RNLI was involved in the rescue of a woman who got into difficulty off the Main Beach in Bundoran early yesterday morning (Sunday 10 October).

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat by Malin Head Coast Guard shortly after 8 am following a report that a swimmer was missing off the Main Beach. The alarm was raised by a member of the public.

Weather conditions were poor at the time with fresh winds and rough seas.

The lifeboat helmed by Richard Gillespie and with three crew members onboard, launched immediately and made its way to the scene where on arrival they observed that the casualty had managed to make her way back to shore but was exhausted from doing so. Prior to the lifeboat arriving, a member of the public who spotted the casualty in difficulty, grabbed a life ring and went into the water knee deep to meet the casualty and help her.

Two lifeboat crew members went ashore and began to administer casualty care while Bundoran RNLI’s shore crew and members of the public also assisted.

The Irish Coast helicopter, Rescue 118 from Sligo, was also tasked and when it arrived, the woman was subsequently transferred and airlifted to Sligo University Hospital as a precautionary measure.

Bundoran RNLI volunteer Killian O’Kelly is reminding anyone planning on entering the water at this time of the year to take extra precautions to keep themselves safe: ‘This was the second call out for Bundoran RNLI in just over a week to swimmers who got caught in rip currents and thankfully in both cases, everyone is safe and well. However, we want to remind anyone planning a trip to a beach or entering the water, that weather conditions have changed now that summer is over. There is more sea swell and more wind so the risks as a result can increase. Seasonal lifeguards that would have been patrolling the beach during the summer, are not there during the autumn and winter months so it is important to be extra cautious. If you are going swimming, check the weather forecast and tide times in advance and try not to go alone. Always consider using a tow float and wear a bright coloured cap to increase your visibility.

‘Avoid areas where you see breaking waves unless you have the experience or knowledge of the beach you are on. Rip currents can be difficult to spot and are notoriously dangerous. Even the most experienced beachgoers and swimmers can be caught out by rips and our advice if you do get caught in a rip, is don’t try to swim against it or you will get exhausted. If you can stand, wade and don’t swim. If you can, swim parallel to the shore until free of the rip and then head for shore. Always raise your hand and shout for help. If you see someone who you think might be in trouble, don't delay, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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A delay in using night vision goggles purchased by the State for Irish Coast Guard search and rescue helicopter crews has been criticised in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (C&AG) annual report.

Although over 4.3 million euro was paid by the Department of Transport to CHC Ireland in 2013 to ensure night vision imaging systems (NVIS) capability, only one of four search and rescue bases had been approved for this as of June 2021, the C&AG’s report for 2020 states.

The C&AG notes that a March 2010 report, which was prepared before the tender process for the Irish Coast Guard search and rescue (SAR) helicopter contract, had recommended helicopters be fitted with an NVIS system.

That 2010 report also recommended that night vision goggles and crew training should be provided when funding became available.

“In 2013, the Department of Transport paid €4.305 million to the company providing SAR in Ireland to ensure the five helicopters used for the service are equipped with NVIS capability,” the C&AG states.

“ Another €527,000 was paid in 2015 for 24 sets of night-vision goggles,” it says, and an initial payment of €1.714 million was made in 2018 for training that began in November 2019.

“The night vision goggles would remain the property of the Coast Guard and, on expiry of the current contract, the goggles would continue to be available for use by SAR crew,”the C&AG says.

It notes the department expects the training to be completed by 2022. Sligo is the only SAR base so far approved for NVIS capability by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA).

The C&AG notes that it will be “some time before all the bases are operating in the same way”.

The Department of Transport told the C&AG that visual reference to the pilots’ outside world is essential for safe and effective flight.

During daylight hours, the pilot relies heavily on the out-the-windshield view of the airspace and terrain for situational awareness, it explained.

“ During night flying, the pilot can improve the out-of-the-windshield view with the use of a NVIS. Overall, NVIS as an additional aid to navigation and search, in suitably equipped aircraft using appropriately trained crews enhances operational effectiveness and safety for both SAR and helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) operations,” the department said.

It said that NVIS have been shown to pick up small lights, such as lights on lifejackets, hand-held torches and distant vehicles at much greater ranges than the naked eye.

“ When operating overland, NVIS assist the crew in navigating, seeing and avoiding terrain and obstructions as well as being able to identify survivors earlier than with the naked eye,”the department said, and can increase the crew’s overall search capability as NVIS enhances visibility.

The department said that NVIS can provide a “back-up to the forward-looking infrared system (FLIR) if the FLIR suffers an unserviceability in-flight”.

It said that NVIS can assist in identifying suitable landing sites more easily under SAR flight rules. This will also enable the helicopters to access the offshore islands that are without aviation infrastructure such as Inishbofin for medical evacuations under SAR flight rules.

It said that during night-time commercial air transport operations (i.e. HEMS incidents), landing is only permitted at company approved surveyed sites, but NVIS has the potential to remove this restriction and allow crews to land safely at sites which have not been surveyed.

“Overall, the use of night vision aid technology increases night-time situational awareness for pilots and technical crew,”the department said.

It also said that use of night vision goggles “markedly decreases the possibility of collisions with terrain or manmade obstruction”.

In its response to questions raised by the C&AG, the department’s accounting officer said that “of necessity, the implementation of the NVIS has been done on a phased basis”.

“Clearly, training can only take place when the helicopters are correctly equipped and goggles are available to use. Regrettably, the timelines have been far longer than original anticipated,” the department said.

It said the Irish Coast Guard had “consistently pressed the company to deliver the training as quickly as possible, to explore all possible options and to engage with the IAA throughout to determine whether certain elements could be accelerated, all with due regard to safety and to ensuring that the core SAR availability was unaffected”.

It also said that re-fitting the helicopters to make them compatible with NVIS operations “does not confer a competitive advantage to the company” in bidding for the new SAR contract.

The C&AG said that “ significant payments were made from voted funds as long ago as 2013, and the planned capability has not yet been delivered across the service”.

“On that basis, I am not persuaded that good value for money for the taxpayer has been achieved from this expenditure,” he said.

Oireachtas Committee of Public Accounts chairman Brian Stanley welcomed the report and noted it highlighted the “wastage of public money” associated with night vision capability within the Irish Coast Guard.

The full report can be read here

Published in Coastguard
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Director of the Irish Coast Guard Chris Reynolds, on assignment as Head of Mission Eucap Somalia, is not returning to the Coastguard in Ireland.

In a post on social media, Reynolds says: "With a heavy heart I will not be returning, but staying on in Somalia. After a decade as Director probably enough."

In 2019, Reynolds, who is currently on secondment to the EU, was appointed Head of the EU capacity building mission in Somalia, EUCAP Somalia.

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's fourth 'Blue Light' service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

Published in Coastguard

Ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend the RNLI and HM Coastguard are launching a new safety campaign, urging everyone to choose lifeguarded beaches when they visit the coast. With continued uncertainty over foreign holidays and international travel, the RNLI is predicting this summer will be the busiest ever as Covid restrictions are eased and people choose to ‘staycation’.

In a survey, commissioned by the RNLI, 75% of those questioned - aged 16-64 - expect to visit a UK beach or the coast between April and September, with around half of that number likely to do so three or more times. A significantly higher proportion of the public (36%) also said they plan to visit the coast more than usual this year, compared to 2020 (24%).

Last summer RNLI lifeguards on 11 Northern Ireland beaches, rescued 71 people and dealt with 225 incidents.

‘We are expecting this summer to be the busiest ever for our lifeguards and volunteer lifeboat crews,’ said the RNLI’s Head of Water Safety Gareth Morrison. ‘These new figures back that up.

‘We want people to enjoy the coast but urge everyone to respect the water, think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.

‘Our main advice is to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags. RNLI lifeguards will be patrolling 11 beaches in Northern Ireland this summer to offer advice on how to stay safe and they are also there to help anyone who gets into trouble.

‘Coastal areas provide a great opportunity to enjoy fresh air and open space but they can be an unpredictable and dangerous environment, particularly during early summer when air temperatures start warming up but water temperatures remain dangerously cold, increasing the risk of cold water shock.’

The key summer safety advice is:

  • Visit a lifeguarded beach & swim between the red and yellow flags
  • If you get into trouble Float to Live – lie on your back and relax, resisting the urge to thrash about
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard

Across the UK last year, RNLI lifeguards saved 110 lives, aided 25,172 people - including 1,908 involving bodyboards and 348 with inflatables – responded to 10,687 incidents and made more than 2.2M preventative actions.

Claire Hughes, Director of HM Coastguard, said: ‘2020 was an exceptionally busy year and we’re expecting more people to take their holidays around our wonderful coasts this summer.

‘We’re asking everyone to follow a few simple safety tips, so the trip is memorable for all the right reasons.

‘Before setting out, take a minute to check the weather, tides and winds to help avoid getting caught out.

‘Leave inflatables at home as they are designed for the pool, not open water, where the wind and current can very quickly take you out to sea and into danger.

‘Recreational watersports such as paddleboarding are now incredibly popular and we’d encourage everyone to make it a fun rather than frightening experience. It pays to prepare and taking a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch when you set out for a paddle will mean you can call for help if needed.

‘If you or someone else is in trouble, always call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.’

Not everyone who finds themselves in trouble in the water, expected to even get wet though.

‘If you find yourself in trouble in cold water, your natural reaction can be to panic and thrash around, which increases the chances of breathing in water and drowning. The best thing to do is to float on your back and wait for the effects of cold water shock to pass until you can control your breathing. You can then plan your next move to reach safety’ added the RNLI’s Gareth Morrison

For further information on the beach safety campaign here

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A swimmer has died after getting into difficulty as Hawk Cliff in Dalkey in Killney Bay yesterday.

The accident happened after the Irish Coast Guard based in Dun Laoghaire Harbour received a call about a swimmer in difficulty.  

Emergency services including the National Ambulance Service, Dublin Fire Brigade, a HSE doctor and local gardai attended at the scene. 

After locating the casualty in the water, they were brought from the water to nearby Coliemore Harbour for urgent medical treatment but sadly passed away.

The Irish Coast Guard said: "Irish Coast Guard - Dun Laoghaire were tasked to a report of a swimmer in difficulty at Hawks Cliff bathing area, with RNLI Dun Laoghaire

Lifeboat Station ILB, National Ambulance Service (NAS), Dublin Fire Brigade, a HSE Doctor and local Gardaí also responding.

Published in Sea Swim
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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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