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Drogheda Coast Guard had a prehistoric mystery on their hands earlier this week with what the station is calling “probably the most unusual tasking we ever had or ever will have”.

The coastguard team were tasked on Tuesday (26 February) after an emergency call reporting ‘dinosaur bones’ in the River Boyne close to Drogheda town centre.

And indeed when they arrived the volunteers discovered what appeared to be the skeletal remains of a Tyrannosaurus rex half-submerged in the mud.

But on closer inspection, the bones were revealed to be “a very impressive imitation”.

Drogheda Coast Guard officer in charge Dermot McConnoran told TheJournal.ie that the plaster-cast bones were covered in silt suggesting they’d been in the river for some time.

Further research has turned up images of the same skeleton “in a less river-worn state” from a little over a year ago. It’s not yet known who is responsible for its creation.

Published in Coastguard

In an end of year review, the Coast Guard is continuing to highlight the capacity to Raise the Alarm and Stay Afloat as essential elements to reducing loss of life owing to drowning’s at sea or on inland waterways.

The Coast Guard’s core safety message is Stay Afloat –Stay in Touch highlights the importance of never engaging in any commercial or recreational boating activity without wearing a fully serviced Life Jacket or Personal Flotation Device coupled with a capacity to raise the alarm via means such as a VHF radio, Personal Locator Beacon or mobile phone. This should be supported by informing a colleague of your anticipated return time.

"Coast Guard Helicopter provide broad range of services"

Into 2019 the Coast Guard will continue to focus on the importance of Prevention as a core theme of drowning prevention and will continue to work with colleagues in Irish Water Safety, RNLI and the Irish Sailing Association in promoting water safety and identifying key risk areas. In early 2019 it is intended to re-launch the Safety on the Water website.

Wicklow RNLI Lifeboat operating at Wicklow Head Lighthouse Wicklow RNLI Lifeboat operating at Wicklow Head Lighthouse Photo: Afloat.ie

The Coast Guard’s three rescue Coordination Centres at Malin Head, Valentia Island and Dublin operate on a 24/7 basis. In the past year, the three centres managed a total of 2650 incidents which saw a rise when compared to 2017 (2503 incidents). MRCC Dublin also serves as the national single point of contact for processing Electronic Satellite-based Safety Alerts generated by EPIRBs, PLBs and ELTs. (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, Personal Locator Beacon and aircraft Emergency Locator Transmitters). 

In 2018 MRCC Dublin processed a total of 137 electronic transmissions the majority of which proved to be false arising from accidental activation or out of date equipment no longer in service. The Coast Guard emphasises that this should not detract from their value and highlighted the importance for all users being familiar with their operation and inbuilt test mechanisms. 

Key Message – ‘Stay Afloat – Stay in Touch’

Coast Guard helicopter services are provided under contract by CHCI operating a fleet of Sikorsky S92 helicopters out of bases in Dublin, Shannon, Waterford and Sligo. Helicopter services at each of the Four bases are on 15-minute notice by day and 45 minutes by night. In addition to their primary role of provision of maritime search and rescue services the Coast Guard provides a round the clock medical evacuation service to the offshore islands. In 2018 the Coast Guard flew a total of 102 medical missions from islands to the mainland, 35 more than in 2017. In addition Coast Guard helicopters conducted 8 Long Range offshore medical evacuations in addition to coastal and inshore search and rescue missions. 

Coast Guard helicopters also provide HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service) to the HSE/National Ambulance Service including inter hospital transfers. The busiest inter hospital transfer routes are from the Letterkenny and Sligo to University Hospital Galway. 

By year-end Coast Guard helicopters will have flown in excess of 670 missions, of which 119 were conducted on behalf of the Health Service Executive. Coast Guard helicopter services also include inland searches for missing persons and medical evacuations in support of An Garda Síochána and Mountain Rescue Teams.

cliff rescueA cliff rescue conducted by the Coast Guard

The nationwide network of Volunteer Coast Guard units continue to be an integral part of the national Search and Rescue framework. With a membership of circa 1,000 volunteers, the units deliver rescue boat, cliff rescue and shoreline search services coupled with a capacity to support their communities during local emergencies such as inclement weather. These community services were to the forefront during storm Emma in March when major challenges were experienced in reaching essential services. Coast Guard volunteers provided emergency transport to Health Care staff, conducted patient transfers and provided support to isolated homes. Overall Volunteer Coast Guard units were tasked on a total of 1185 separate occasions throughout the year.

Coast Guard Director Chris Reynolds said: “I want to particularly acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of our Volunteer members. In addition to the three core services that they provide they are an integral part of community resilience and continually act as the Eyes and Ears of our RCCs in assessing and responding to any coastal emergency. 

The RNLI is categorised as a declared resource to the Coast Guard which means that each individual station can be directly requested to respond to individual incidents. In 2018 the RNLI were requested to launch on 836 occasions.

The Coast Guard attaches particular attention to what is categorises as Lives Saved. *This refers to assistance provided that was it not available would have resulted in loss of life or severe risk of loss of life or protracted hospitalisation. In 2018 the Coast Guard has recorded that in excess of 400 people were categorised as Lives Saved in comparison with 340 in 2017. 

VaradkarChrisReynoldsCoast Guard Director Chris Reynolds (right) with An Taoiseach Leo Varadakr

Director Chris Reynolds reiterated a core message of raising the alarm in time.

“If you can raise the alarm and you can stay afloat then you have an outstanding chance of being rescued by our world class rescue service.”

“If you see somebody in trouble or if you think they are in trouble at sea, on the water or along the coast Dial 112 and ask for the COAST GUARD.”

Published in Coastguard
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The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI, in the run-up to the Christmas period, are reminding the public to look after their personal safety when engaged in any water or coastal based activities.

They have issued a joint safety message reminding the public to heed simple safety advice when they are out on the water or engaged in any activity along the water’s edge. The two organisations have cautioned that many accidents and tragedies take place involving people who never expected to end up in the water.

There are some key pieces of advice that the RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard ask people to keep in mind when they are around the water over the Christmas and New Year break: 

Stay Back – Stay High – Stay Dry when engaged in coastal walks and avoid any unfamiliar routes and be mindful of changes caused by coastal erosion and the risk of trip, slips and falls.

Ensure that pets are kept under control in case they get into difficulty and cause owners to risk their own safety in rescuing them.

Remember to carry a suitable means to call for help such as mobile phone, vhf radio or Personal Locator beacon

If engaged in any boating activities Do Wear an appropriate personal flotation device – it could save a life.

If going out alone, tell someone ashore your plans and what time you expect to be back.

For anybody engaged in a Christmas or New Year swim only participate in an organised swim that has appropriate safety facilities

Always remember if you see anybody in trouble on the water or along the coast or if you think they are in trouble Ring 112 and ask for the Coast Guard. 

The RNLI’s ‘Float to Live’ message advises people who fall into cold water unexpectedly to fight their instinct to swim until the cold-water shock passes.

They should pause, and float on their back until able to catch their breath and either call for help or swim to land if it is nearby. The Coast Guard is reiterating its message to Stay afloat – Stay in Contact, meaning that if they can stay afloat and raise the alarm then they have an excellent chance of being rescued.

Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager Gerard O’Flynn said, ‘at this time of year people love to get out and about. Do so safely and act sensibly and wisely and if in doubt shout. Coast Guard services, will be fully operational over the holiday period.”

RNLI Lifesaving Manager Sean Dillon said, ‘It is much easier than people realise to get into trouble in the water. Whatever activity you are doing, make sure you are aware of the dangers, know your limits and do not take risks. Over the previous ten years, from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day, RNLI lifeboats launched 137 times and assisted 57 people in Ireland. While all the search and rescue services stand ready to help people, being prepared and taking some basic safety advice can avoid an accident or a serious tragedy.’

In conclusion, both Sean and Gerard, wish all RNLI and Coast Guard volunteers, their shore-based support teams and staff, a happy and safe Christmas. Volunteer lifeboat and coast guard crews remain on call over the Christmas period.

Published in Coastguard
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The Marine Casualty Investigation Board has today published its report into the marine incident on 12th September 2016 which led to the Coast Guard volunteer, Caitríona Lucas, tragically losing her life.

Minister Ross said: “I wish to again express my deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Caitríona, who lost her life so tragically, doing the volunteer work she loved. Caitríona was a talented, hardworking and deeply committed member of the Doolin Coast Guard Unit. She was a selfless member of a unique group of people, those men and women who dedicate themselves to the protection of others at great risk to themselves. Caitriona made the ultimate sacrifice and her loss has been enormous. Coast Guard volunteers, in particular the direct colleagues of Caitríona in the Units at Doolin and Kilkee, were devastated at the tragic events that unfolded on that day.”

Minister Ross welcomes the report’s recommendations in full and will be ensuring that they are all implemented. These are clearly aimed at minimising the potential risks involved in SAR boat operations into the future.

The Minister also notes that as there is a separate on-going investigation being carried out by the Health and Safety Authority that it would not be appropriate for him to comment on the detail cited in the report.

Minister Ross said:

“As an immediate response to this report, I have taken the following steps:

1) I have broadened the national SAR Framework review already underway as a response to the recent AQE Report on SAR aviation. It will now encompass the relevant recommendations arising from the MCIB report. The Review Group itself met formally on Wednesday 5 December under the independent chairmanship of Sir Alan Massey, former CEO of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency in the UK.

2) I have instructed the IRCG to accelerate its work in developing an independently accredited ISO safety management system that will be robust and fit for purpose. This work is already underway and significant effort and investment has taken place over the last two years.

3) That said, I am requiring the IRCG and the Marine Survey Office to take the necessary and pragmatic steps to ensure that any issues which could impact on vessel or crew safety are addressed as a matter of urgency.”

The Minister concluded:

“Caitríona Lucas was an extraordinary woman - brave, committed, supremely generous – and her death was an appalling tragedy. Her life will be remembered by the actions of all those involved in Search and Rescue activities. I know the Irish Coast Guard including its 900 volunteers are committed to honouring her memory. We will ensure volunteer safety remains at the heart of Search and Rescue operations”.

Published in MCIB
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The RNLI and the Irish Coast Guard are issuing a joint call this May Bank Holiday weekend for people to stay safe on and near water as the expected warmer weather and brighter evenings will see more people spending time outdoors. The maritime organisations caution that an improvement in the weather does not mean warmer water temperatures and people should make sure they apply common sense and observe basic safety precautions when engaged in any activity either at sea or along the coast.

While the temperatures increase, Irish waters rarely exceed 15C, making them cold enough year-round to trigger cold water shock, which causes the instinctive reaction to gasp and swim hard, which can quickly lead to drowning. Over half of accidental coast drownings happen to people who never though they would end up in the water and are not prepared for an emergency.

The Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI are asking people to take the time to check that they have all essential safety equipment and that is fully serviced and that anybody who needs to use it knows what to do.

Always wear the correct equipment for your activity and always wear a lifejacket or proper personal floatation equipment

The RNLI and Coast Guard recommend attaching a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) to your Lifejacket or Personal Floatation Device. The small devices are worn on your person and can send a distress message to the Coast Guard from any location.

Always tell another person where you are going and when you will be back

If you see someone get into difficulty dial 112 or 999 and ask for the Coast Guard. If possible look for something that floats or that they can hold on to and throw it out to them.
Check that all your safety equipment is working and fully serviced

Sean Dillon, RNLI Lifesaving Manager said: ‘The May bank holiday is traditionally a time when a lot of people get out and enjoy the coastline and our beautiful loughs and lakes. Last year Irish lifeboat crews launched 1,145 times to all types of incidents. The RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign will be running throughout the summer but drowning prevention should be carried out year round.’

Gerard O’Flynn, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager added: ‘If you are getting into a boat our message is ‘Stay afloat – Stay in contact’. Always wear a PFD or Lifejacket and ensure that you can raise the alarm if you need assistance be that by marine VHF radio, mobile phone or PLB (Personal Locator Beacon), which will enable responders to quickly locate and assist you”

IF YOU SEE SOMEBODY IN DIFFICULTY OR THINK SOMEBODY IS IN DIFFICULTY DIAL 112/999 and ASK FOR THE COAST GUARD

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The community of Erris and Irish Coast Guard have been jointly honoured at the People of the Year Awards, with special recognition for the crew of Rescue 116 which was lost off the Mayo coast in March of last year.

The honour at the 43rd People of the Year Awards, organised by Rehab, was presented by broadcaster Bryan Dobson in recognition of the heroic work of the men and women of the Irish Coast Guard in risking life to assist maritime and coastal communities, while the people of Erris were recognised for their contribution to the search for the missing crew. The Awards were broadcast live on RTÉ One from Dublin’s Mansion House on Sunday.

Volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who lost her life off the Clare coast during a separate operation, was also honoured.

It was early on the morning of March 14, 2017, that Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 disappeared off the north coast of Mayo. The aircraft had been providing communications support for an offshore medical assistance operation. On board were Capt Dara Fitzpatrick, Capt Mark Duffy and winch team Paul Ormsby and Ciarán Smith.

Hundreds of volunteers, fishermen, and colleagues supported the emergency services in combing the area for the missing crew, going above and beyond in a bid to recover the lost heroes.

The bodies of Dara Fitzpatrick and Mark Duffy were recovered in the subsequent searches. However, tragically and despite intensive efforts, the bodies of Ciarán Smith and Paul Ormsby have yet to be recovered.

Just six months previously, the Irish Coast Guard community had suffered another devastating loss with the passing of their brave colleague, volunteer member Caitríona Lucas, who had been participating in a search operation off the coast of Kilkee, Co. Clare.

Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Operations Manager, Gerard O’Flynn, said: “The selfless actions of those who put their lives on the line, for the safety of others, means Caitríona, Dara, Ciáran, Mark and Paul will remain an inspiration to us all. Going above and beyond is the norm for members of the Coast Guard service. The fact that these men and women often put their own lives in danger to carry out their duties makes the search and rescue crews such a remarkable group of people. Our colleagues will always be sadly missed and we remain deeply saddened by the depth of this tragedy.

“I would like to pay tribute to the community of Erris who left no stone unturned in supporting one of the most extensive search and investigation operations ever conducted in the area. Every possible assistance was provided, ranging from the fishing community providing local knowledge and advice, shoreline searching and, in particular, the huge catering operation that was put in place to provide valuable sustenance to all participants. It was indicative of the long-established bond between coastal communities and the Coast Guard services. We are humbled to receive this award which honours the bravery of all of our colleagues and pray that their bereaved families will take courage from this recognition.”

Ireland’s longest-running and most prestigious awards event, the People of the Year Awards are widely recognised as one of Ireland’s highest accolades. Nominated by members of the public, and finalised by a panel of adjudicators, a total of ten awards were presented at the ceremony which was hosted by Gráinne Seoige and Aidan Power.

Published in Coastguard
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In the aftermath of storm Emma and the heavy snowfalls around the country the Irish Coast Guard and the RNLI have issued a joint call for people to exercise caution and remain vigilant around the coast and near rivers. High tides, onshore easterly winds and a sharp rise in river levels could pose a significant risk to public safety. 

Although river levels have been relatively low, a quick thaw coupled with heavy rainfall could result in a surge in water levels without warning. High tides assisted by non-prevailing winds as forecasted for the East coast may result in flooding and extreme danger on exposed piers and coastlines. The public should exercise caution and stay away from piers, harbours, seawalls and riverbanks.

Up to date weather event information can be viewed on www.gov.ie

Owen Medland, RNLI Area Lifesaving Manager said, ‘ It’s been a tough few days for the country and people will want to get out and about as soon as the weather moderates. ‘Many people rescued by RNLI lifeboat crews had no intention of entering the water in the first place. All too often, people’s first instinct when they see someone in trouble in the water is to go in after them. If you see someone in danger, dial 112 and ask for the Coast Guard straight away. Look for a ring buoy or something that floats that they can hold on to and throw it out to them.’

Irish Coast Guard Search and Rescue Operations Manager Gerard O’Flynn added, “The advice of the Coast Guard is simple, Stay Back, Stay High Stay Dry. Coast Guard teams around the country have been very busy providing support to the emergency services over the past few days. Please heed the warnings and be mindful of the risk posed by a surge in river levels following the expected thaw and be mindful of the risks on exposed coastal areas”.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The 50th anniversary of the St.Phelim Aer Lingus tragedy in which the 4 crew and 57 passengers all died is to be commemorated at Rosslare on Saturday, March 24 next. There will be a wreath laying ceremony at the crash site with a Naval Vessel, the RNLI, Irish Lights, Irish Coastguard and other agencies present. A number of relatives will be taken to the site by the Navy for the ceremony. This will be followed by a Memorial Ceremony at Rosslare Harbour Memorial Park, writes Tom MacSweeney.

The tragedy occurred on March 24, 1968.

Aer Lingus flight EI 712 had left from Cork Airport at 10:32 a.m. on a direct service to Heathrow Airport, London and was cleared to fly at to FL170 (17,000 feet). The crew sent out a radio message at the Bannow reporting point at 10:57 local time stating they were at FL170.. They were instructed to change frequency to London Airways. Just eight seconds after first reporting to London Air Traffic Control a broken message was received which was later interpreted as ”Twelve thousand feet descending spinning rapidly. “The Viscount plane descended and struck the sea 1.7 nautical miles from Tuskar Rock. After the loss of contact, Air Traffic Control requested that Aer Lingus flight EI 362 which was heading to Bristol from Dublin to divert to an area west of the Strumble to see if they could spot anything on the water. They descended to 500 feet but nothing was seen.

ROSSLARE MEMORIAL STONERosslare memorial stone

At 11:25 a.m. a full alert was sounded. HMS Hardy, a Royal Navy Type 14 Frigate was the first ship to reach the possible crash area but found nothing.

It wasn’t until the search resumed on the following day that floating debris was sighted and over the next few days a total of fourteen bodies were recovered. The main wreckage was detected on the seabed by a trawler at a depth of 39 fathoms (234 feet/71.3 metres), 1.7 miles from Tuskar Rock.

Sean Boyce of the Rosslare Maritime Museum and the organising committee said:
“It is our hope to have as many of the relatives as possible in attendance. There will be a commemorative display which we are happy to open to the families.”

PLANNED PROGRAMME OF COMMEMORATION

10:40 a.m. Boarding the Naval Vessel
11:00 a.m. Naval vessel/Flotilla departs to the Tuskar site.
11:45 a.m. Wreath Laying Ceremony on Site.
12:45 a.m. Arrive back at Rosslare Harbour – Bus back to Hotel Rosslare.
13:00 a.m. Lunch – Hotel Rosslare
2:30 a.m. Flag ceremony –Raising of flags/half-mast/Irish/ Belgian/Swiss /UK/US
2:40 p.m. Ecumenical Service
3:00 p.m. Wreath laying ceremony / unveiling.
3:20 p.m. Speeches.
3:45 p.m. Raising of the flags, Reveille. National Anthem.
4:00 p.m. End of cermonies

For more information the Facebook St.Phelim Air Crash 50th Commemoration Page here

Published in Rescue
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The AAIU Investigation into the accident involving the loss of R116 and its four crew members at Blackrock, Co. Mayo on 14 March 2017 is still in the process of gathering factual and background information and is making steady progress. The AAIU again extends its condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this accident. International Convention, and associated National and European legislation, require that, if a final report cannot be made publicly available within 12 months of the date of the accident, an interim statement detailing the progress of the investigation and any safety issues raised, will be made publicly available.

The AAIU wishes to advise that due to the depth and breadth of this Investigation, it will not be possible to issue a final report within 12 months of the date of the accident and therefore an interim statement will be published. The Investigation is endeavouring to issue this interim statement before the anniversary; however, it is not possible to say at this time when the interim statement will be published.

Published in Coastguard
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In this digital age, with so many available resources providing sea area weather forecasts, is there still a need for national radio to broadcast these forecasts?

I heard an RTE Radio Presenter asking a Met Eireann meteorologist on-air whether there was any point in broadcasting weather forecasts for the marine sector any more, because there was so much detailed weather information available online.

It reminded me of the battles I had with RTE Radio managers and schedulers when they came up with their idea of ending such weather forecasts altogether, because they took up broadcast time which could better used.

I was Marine Correspondent with RTE then so the conversation a few weeks ago between the RTE Presenter and Met Eireann reawakened my memories of those internal RTE disagreements and underlined for me how badly served the maritime sector is by the national media, both broadcast and print.

It also underlines why the BBC Radio Shipping Forecasts are popular amongst Irish fishermen, mariners, professional, commercial and leisure – because it’s a specialised service to the marine sector that RTE doesn’t provide in the same way.

The coastal radio stations of the Coast Guard give weather forecasts which are available at sea, thankfully, but the mindset of the RTE Presenter showed it was closed to around Dublin and Montrose and unaware of the reality of life, particularly in the maritime sector and the coastal communities, outside of urbanisation.

The Met Eireann Meteorologist told the RTE Presenter that there are coastal areas around the Irish shorelines and at sea where there is no internet access and not even a reliable mobile phone signal and that there is still dependence on the State broadcaster for the forecast.

That is a viewpoint I agree with, but one could add that the ‘independent broadcasters,’ those who are also described as national ‘commercial stations’ should also consider.

There has been a demand from the non-State public service broadcaster for a share of the licence fee, but that should also bring responsibilities, such as a sea area forecast for mariners.

Listen to the Podcast below: 

Published in Tom MacSweeney
Page 8 of 53

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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