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Wednesday morning saw some early 2022 season double-handed two boat tuning for a pair of Jeanneau Sunfast 3600 keelboats on Dublin Bay.

ISORA campaigners Searcher (Pete Smyth) and John O'Gorman's Hot Cookie enjoyed 10-15 knots north-westerlies for a fast reach from Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Searcher and Hot Cookie, both from the National Yacht Club, cut quite a dash crossing a deserted bay at speed under pink and red spinnakers.

The pair returned to the harbour after a two-hour session with Searcher sporting a ripped kite in conditions that had strengthened to over 20 knots in gusts.

ISORA celebrates its Golden Jubilee with a return to traditional Irish Offshore Racing in 2022 with the first fixture on May 28th with a 60-mile race from Dun Laoghaire to Holyhead. All this, of course, is preceded by DBSC's Spring Chicken Series that begins on February 6th. 

Published in ISORA

A Welsh sailor with a longtime connection to offshore racing in the Irish Sea has been recognised by his home club with a lifetime contribution award.

Richard Tudor was presented with the accolade recently at a special function hosted by Pwllheli Sailing Club, which has posted a glowing tribute on its website.

A fixture on the ISORA calendar, most recently in the J125, Jackknife — and a former champion in the J109, Sgrech, too — Richard has been a part of Pwllheli’s club since its first clubhouse, after a childhood growing his love of the water under the tutelage of Gwyndaf Hughes.

Sailing also runs in the family, with his father Huw serving as Pwllheli’s commodore for a time and his brothers Andrew and Stephen also keen helmsmen.

Richard sailed his first ISORA in 1976, and his first Fastnet Race in 1977 — the beginnings of a decades-long connection with Ireland’s offshore sailing scene that continues to this day. Pwllheli Sailing Club has much more HERE.

Published in ISORA

Following its AGM, ISORA aims to run the full traditional offshore series including the Wolf’s Head overall trophy in what will be its 50th season. 

There are great plans for the 2022 season. We have proposed a separate Coastal Series on each side of the Irish Sea and an Offshore Series. We propose to move back to our traditional offshores by making them longer. We are proposing staggered starts for the races to ensure that as many boats arrive at the finish at the same time. This should revive the great social part of ISORA. We will be working with the host clubs to ensure that there will be “facilities” open for crew no matter what time they arrive at the finish. If sufficient interest exists, we would encourage cruising boast to follow the race fleet, as a “Rally”, and take part in the pre and post-race social events.

ISORA will be working with the Irish National Sail and Powerboat School, INSS, in placing newly qualified crews onto appropriate ISORA Offshore and Coastal boats. ISORA will also be working with the newly formed “Offshore Racing Academy” to promote the technical aspects of offshore racing and to inform and update Skippers on appropriate offshore data. Kenneth Rumball gave a very useful series of pre-race weather and tactical briefings immediately before some of the major races this season. These were well received by Skippers. It is hoped as part of the Offshore Racing Academy, these briefings will continue next season.

Kingstown to Queenstown Race (K2Q Race)

Obviously, the main offshore event is the Round Ireland Race. ISORA will be working with Wicklow Sailing Club and fully supporting and promoting this great race. ISORA have included this in their race schedule and will be preparing boats to qualify for this epic race. ISORA will also be providing tracker service to the race. The other great offshore race in 2022 will be the recommencement of the “Kingstown to Queenstown Race”, (K2Q Race), a 270-mile race that starts in Dun Laoghaire, rounds the Fastnet and finishes in Cork Harbour. It is run by the Royal Cork Yacht Club in conjunction with the National Yacht Club and ISORA.

Let’s hope that the 2022 season will see ISORA grow again, in its 50th Season, promoting offshore racing in the Irish Sea.

To mark this 50th season we hope to finish an offshore in Howth in June and run a celebratory party.

Some of the ISORA fleet in Howth after a cross-channel race in 1980, with the fleet including (at centre) Dai Mouse III (now Sunstone) and the McGruer yawl Frenesi, as well as the first Round Ireland Race winner Force Tension (Johnny Morris) on right. Despite the primitive facilities at most ports, more than a hundred boats regularly entered the ISORA Championship each season. Photo: W M NixonSome of the ISORA fleet in Howth after a cross-channel race in 1980, with the fleet including (at centre) Dai Mouse III (now Sunstone) and the McGruer yawl Frenesi, as well as the first Round Ireland Race winner Force Tension (Johnny Morris) on right. Despite the primitive facilities at most ports, more than a hundred boats regularly entered the ISORA Championship each season. Photo: W M Nixon

ISORA 50th

Afloat's Winkie Nixon wrote about ISORA's birth earlier this year: 

ISORA had its preliminary informal launching to emerge out of the North-West Offshore Association (formerly the Mersey & North Wales Joint Offshore Committee) in the old Howth YC on the West Pier at lunchtime on Sunday 29th August 1971, the day after the Abersoch-Howth Race (the James C Eadie Cup).

The main movers and shakers in making the up-grade were Dickie Richardson from Holyhead SC and Hal Sisk from the National YC. Among those present were Alan Stead and Bert Whitehead (both HSC and Tranmere SC, subsequently officers of ISORA) Ronnie Wayte of Setanta of Skerries, and myself, together with sundry others who were keen to get the business done so that the proper post-race party could progress at its usual ferocious pace.

The first season in 1972 had an awesomely busy and complex programme, by the mid-'70s there were 107 boats in the annual points championship, and it all reached a sort of height in 1976 when the biennial ISORA Week was staged in Crosshaven with a huge turnout which made the Corkmen wonder why they were going to all this effort for the benefit of a bunch of madmen from the Irish Sea, and thus Cork Week was born.

Read the full article on ISORA's Golden Jubilee

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Significant changes to the ISORA 2022 fixtures schedule (downloadable here) on the Irish Sea will be discussed online at this year's Irish Sea Offshore Racing Association (ISORA) Annual General Meeting.

The offshore body promotes offshore racing on both side of the channel, principally from Dun Laoghaire on Dublin Bay and Pwllheli in North Wales.

As Afloat previously reported, it is proposed to hold two Coastal Series, one on each side of the Irish Sea. Points for the Coastal series will not count for the Wolf’s Head. The Coastal Series will have its own signature trophies.

The AGM will be held virtually by 'Zoom' on Saturday 4th December 2021 at 11.00 hours.

The meeting is for the transaction of the following business:-

  • To approve the minutes of the previous AGM.
  • To approve the accounts for the year to November 2021
  • To elect Officers of the Association for the ensuing year.
  • To elect members of the Committee
  • To Agree the 2022 Race Management Detail and Proposed Race Schedule

The meeting is for the following categories:

  • 2019, 2020 and 2021 Skippers, or their appointed representative
  • 2022 prospective Skippers, or their appointed representative
  • 2021 Committee Members
  • 2022 Committee Members (proposed)
  • Yacht/Sailing Club Representatives

Voting will be restricted to one vote per ISORA participating boat.  Questions for the AGM are required to be forwarded to the Hon Sec before 2nd December 2021

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Some significant changes to the ISORA 2022 fixtures schedule (downloadable below) on the Irish Sea are highlighted by ISORA Chairman Peter Ryan ahead of this year's online AGM. 

The Offshore will be a stand-alone series for ISORA's overall Wolf’s Head Trophy. The offshore races will be longer, more like the traditional ISORA races.

There will be two Coastal Series, one on each side of the Irish Sea. Points for the Coastal series will not count for the Wolf’s Head. The Coastal Series will have its own signature trophies.

The Offshore will include the Round Ireland Race and the new RCYC/ISORA Kingstown to Queenstown Race – Dun Laoghaire to Cork, via the Fastnet.

To facilitate gathering for socialising after races, the class starts will be staggered, with Class 2 heading off first. This will also keep the fleet in touch for longer.

ISORA's Peter Ryan is instigating change for 2022 ISORA's Peter Ryan - instigating change for 2022 offshore season

We are strongly promoting the social side of racing. Even with the longer offshore races, there will still be facilities at the finishing club for every boat irrespective of when a boat finishes.

ISORA coastal racing off Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the hub of offshore racing in IrelandISORA coastal racing off Dun Laoghaire Harbour, the hub of offshore racing in Ireland

Encouraging cruising boats to join with the ISORA racing fleet and join in the post-race social events.

We are working with ICRA to create an ICRA National Offshore / Coastal Championship.

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9th November 2021

John Morris 1933-2021

At first light on Saturday 5th July 1980 off Wicklow, Johnny Morris of Pwllheli - who has died aged 88 - secured himself a permanent place in the story of offshore racing. In command of Force Tension, a One Tonner to the High Tension 36 design by Jac de Ridder, he became the first skipper to complete a non-stop Round Ireland Race, taking line honours in Wicklow SC’s inaugural event in five days 15 hours and two minutes.

He thereby placed himself two hours and 10 minutes on the water ahead of Dave Fitzgerald’s 40ft Partizan from Galway. However, when all the fleet was in, Brian Coad’s Rival 34 Raasay of Melfort (Waterford Harbour SC) was declared the overall handicap winner under WSC’s special Round Ireland Rating system, while Jim Poole’s Ron Holland Half Tonner Feanor (National YC) won under the RORC system, the IOR.

But there at the top of the listings as the clearcut line honours winner was - and always will be - Force Tension (A J Vernon, South Caernarvon YC, sailed by J.S.Morris). With the biennial Round Ireland Race now more than four decades old and well established as a pillar event of the European offshore season, it’s an achievement of steadily increasing significance. Yet it tells us much about the dedicated enthusiasm of Johnny Morris to sailing, and to life generally, that it was just one of many milestones in a very fully-lived existence.

Pre-start manoeuvres at the first Round Ireland Race 1980 off Wicklow, with Line Honours winner Force Tension on left, and handicap winner Raasay on right. Photo: W M NixonPre-start manoeuvres at the first Round Ireland Race 1980 off Wicklow, with Line Honours winner Force Tension on left, and handicap winner Raasay on right. Photo: W M Nixon

His sailing started at Abersoch in Dragons and 30 Square Metres. But soon after the family had acquired the attractive 34ft Holman-designed cruiser-racer Grenade for regular participation in the developing programme of the newly-formed ISORA - which had emerged from the Northwest Offshore Association - Johnny started to go his own way. He did this with the acquisition in 1972 of the new Sparkman & Stephens-designed She Wolf, a She 31 of a very attractive marque which became well-represented and successful in the Irish Sea programme.

Having proven he’d a winner in his ISORA racing, Johnny took She Wolf to the English Channel and repeated his success in season-long RORC Class V racing. This provided an introduction to the wider RORC programme, and in 1976 he was very much in contention in the RORC Round Britain and Ireland Race with Tiderace, the competition including Denis Doyle’s 47ft S&S design Moonduster – the “Blue Moonduster”.

Pocket rocket…..Johnny Morris’s very successful She Wolf was a Sparkman & Stephens-designed mini-classicPocket rocket…..Johnny Morris’s very successful She Wolf was a Sparkman & Stephens-designed mini-classic

Yet his first love as a sailing location was Cardigan Bay, and in 1977 it became home with his establishment of Firmhelm Ltd at Pwllheli Boatyard. Among his early contracts to put the yard on a sound footing was the completion from a bare hull of the boat which became Force Tension for Tony Vernon who - a couple of years later – loaned the boat to Johnny for “this new-fangled Round Ireland Race”, thereby doubling the Morris achievement as he took the honours racing a boat he’d built himself.

It was only one success in an extraordinary life of dedication to the sport and the boats involved in it. He’d spend the week in hands-on management in Firmhelm, and then he’d go off and spend the weekend in ISORA racing, often in command and always in a key role, and usually aboard a boat in which he’d made a significant constructional or tuning input, craft such as Autonomy, Greased Lightning, Teambuilder, Jackhammer, Korimako, and Glider.

Pwlheli with Snowdonia beyond. John Morris’s development of the Firmhelm Boatyard here from 1977 onwards was important for the harbour’s growth.Pwlheli with Snowdonia beyond. John Morris’s development of the Firmhelm Boatyard here from 1977 onwards was important for the harbour’s growth.

As to the administration of ISORA, his input was typically practical. For many years he served on the committee, but in addition, he was longtime Trophy Secretary. It’s a key job, for as any sailing secretary well knows, as one busy season rapidly succeeds another, it sometimes happens that the inscription on some historic piece of silverware is the only record of the outcome of an increasingly remote race.

With all these areas of involvement in and around boats and racing, you might well think that Johnny Morris had his plate well filled, but he was also hugely enthusiastic about horses, and a demon on the ski slopes. And though in his latter years he’d retired from racing, his passion for being afloat and involved continued with the acquisition of the very comfortable cruising catamaran Sirena, which as often as not was to be found on duty as Committee Boat or Pin End Boat at many of the national and international events hosted by Pwllheli SC and Plas Heli.

Always afloat whenever possible – the late Johnny Morris glimpsed aboard his comfortable cruising catamaran SirenaAlways afloat whenever possible – the late Johnny Morris glimpsed aboard his comfortable cruising catamaran Sirena

Johnny Morris added a new dimension to “enthusiasm and zest for life”. He may have gone from among us, but his wide circle of friends and family around the Irish Sea and beyond are much heartened by the memory of all that he achieved, and the way that he did it. 

WMN

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Top Irish offshore yacht Rockabill VI was first in line honours, first in IRC overall and class in the seven-boat James Eadie long offshore (76-miles) from Pwllheli to Dun Laoghaire yesterday. 

Race 15 was the final race of the Musto ISORA Offshore Series for the cross-channel association that has been frustrated for a second year by COVID restrictions. 

The winning JPK 10.80 skippered by Paul O'Higgins of the Royal Irish Yacht Club finished in 14 hours, 53 minutes and 20 seconds. 

Chris Power Smith's Aurelia crew from the Royal St. George Yacht Club were second in line honours and IRC Zero, but third overall as the Welsh J/109 Mojito ( Peter Dunlop) from Pwllheli took second overall.

The seven boat ISORA fleet start their cross-channel race off Pwllheli The seven boat ISORA fleet start their cross-channel race off Pwllheli

As reported earlier, as there were only two possible combined offshore races between the Welsh and Irish fleets this season, the Wolf’s Head Trophy for the Musto ISORA Offshore Champion will not be awarded in 2021.

Details are provisional and as per the ISORA YB tracker.

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Out of an entry list of 13 boats, seven will take part in the last offshore of the Musto ISORA Offshore Series on Saturday. 

The 'Long Offshore' will start from Pwllheli in North Wales at 10 am and sail a course to Dun Laoghaire Harbour to conclude the 2021 season.

While there are only seven boats taking part, they are the top boats of the year and the overall placings in the Irish and UK Musto ISORA Offshore Series will be decided by this race.

ISORA James Eadie race fleetISORA James Eadie race fleet

Known affectionately by ISORA sailors as the “James Eadie Race” it is traditionally the last race of the ISORA season.

As there were only two possible combined offshore races this season between the Welsh and Irish fleets, the Wolf’s Head Trophy for the Musto ISORA Offshore Champion, will not be awarded in 2021.

The race can be followed on the YB tracker app and on the ISORA website.

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Provisional results give Paul O'Higgins' Rockabill VI the overall win in ISORA's Race No. 12. The Royal Irish JPK 10.80 was the line honours winner in the slated 35-mile coastal day race that started and finished Dun Laoghaire Harbour.  

It was a light air affair from the get-go for the 11-boat fleet at 10 am on Saturday that saw the ISORA champion take just over five hours to complete the course.

Second overall was Pete Smyth's Sunfast 3600 Searcher that won in IRC 2.  Ninth on the water but third on IRC was the double-handed First 310 of Grzegorz Kalinecki, the silver fleet winner. 

This 12th race of the 2021 Musto Series also doubled as the third race of the ISORA Viking Marine Coastal Series. 

Light winds for ISORA's 12th race off Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Michael HorganLight winds for ISORA's 12th race off Dun Laoghaire Harbour Photo: Michael Horgan

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Yes indeed. With only a fortnight to go to the Golden Jubilee of ISORA's emergence from the old Northwest Offshore Association, Chairman Peter Ryan of Dun Laoghaire and Honorary Secretary Stephen Tudor of Pwllheli and their members can walk tall in the knowledge that all three boats with direct ISORA connections that were doing the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021 have been very much in the big-time success frame.

Let's go straight to the IRC Overall listing, in which 264 boats started - everything from slim little Contessa 32s up to the mighty 140ft Skorpios. We've only gone three places down the listing when we come to the Lombard 46 Pata Negra. Until now, she has only been a rare visitor to the Irish Sea, if at all. But she'd have been here last August when Darren Wright of Howth had her lined up for the postponed Round Ireland Race, as he knew the boat with his successes with her in the RORC Caribbean 600. But then the Round Ireland 2020 had to be cancelled completely.

Now, she's owned by Andrew Hall of Pwllheli, who must have sailed every course in the ISORA programme many times in boats like Jackknife and Jackhammer. Whether or not Pata Negra becomes an ISORA regular is neither here nor there. After all, she is a star, at her best in the majors. But the Middle Sea Race must be beckoning, and next year's Round Ireland is surely made for her, a formidable contender with second in IRC 1 to add to her third overall around the Fastnet.

Going on down the long list, we've only got to 14th overall when the Sunfast 37 Desert Star pops up. The sudden arrival in Cherbourg this morning (Friday) of a whole gaggle of IRC 4 boats opened up the overall list more than somewhat, and Desert Star's cool placing was augmented by being second in class after hours and days of very switched-on strategic and tactical sailing by Irish Offshore Sailing's principal Ronan O Siochru, and his talented right-hand man Conor Totterdell.

Over the years, Desert Star has become an ISORA regular, as the Association's bite-sized events are ideal for a sailing school working within tight time constraints. That said, those who signed up for 2021's Fastnet Programme with IOS ("No Experience Necessary, We'll Provide It and Turn You Into a Veteran") have now got themselves the bargain of a lifetime – a bargain which they can scarcely have imagined during the first incredibly challenging 24 hours of the race itself.

Happy campers. The Fastnet Race trainees aboard Irish Offshore Sailing's Desert Star (with skipper Ronan O Siochru on right, and Conor Totterdell third from right) got themselves the bargain of a lifetime in buying into the 2021 programme. Photo courtesy IOSHappy campers. The Fastnet Race trainees aboard Irish Offshore Sailing's Desert Star (with skipper Ronan O Siochru on right, and Conor Totterdell third from right) got themselves the bargain of a lifetime in buying into the 2021 programme. Photo courtesy IOS

And finally, the ISORA threesome is completed by the Figaro 3 RL Sailing. While Pamela Lee has only occasional ISORA experience to refer to, co-skipper Kenneth Rumball is an old ISORA hand. And although the turnout in the special Figaro 3 Two-Handed Class was a modest five boats, RL Sailing's victory in it was by an incredible margin. In fact, the high point in her race was in the final stages, when she found herself in a fortuitous three-way duel with the two IRC 2-Handed leaders, the Sun Fast 3300 Swell and the JPK 10.30 Leon, from which RL Sailing emerged six minutes ahead boat-for-boat at Cherbourg. UPDATE Penalty for RL sailing. (August 17) here 

Pamela Lee and Kenneth Rumball on RL SailingPamela Lee and Kenneth Rumball on RL Sailing

Only three boats perhaps, but they provide a remarkably comprehensive lineup of memorable achievements in just one sailing of this great race in its new format, in which Cork's representative, the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, put in a truly heroic performance in pulling herself out of a private quagmire which had put her back in 26h in IRC 3 at one low point, yet by the finish she'd got back up to 13th, a memorable recovery.

But if we were forced into a corner and asked to nominate the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021's outstanding achievement, it was probably the way in which Charlie Dalin and Paul Meilhat took the IMOCA 60 Apivia through the first 24 hours.

Getting an IMOCA 6 to go well directly to windward in a seaway is not a talent with which every skipper is blessed. Of course, to some extent, it depends on the boat in question, but in some cases it's what you'd imagine a giraffe would look like if it tried to go ice-skating.

But with Apivia, these guys were doing the business from the word go, and they put the cream on the cake by the master-stroke of holding on starboard tack after the Needles to go clear across the Channel and on behind and beyond the Channel islands until they finally went on to port off the north coast of Brittany, having carried the same ebb tide the whole way from the Solent to Cap Brehat. There, they were beautifully placed for a swift and clear open water passage across towards the Isles of Scilly, where they found themselves pacing with Skorpios despite the latter being more than twice their overall length, and better configured for going to windward.

It was a master-stroke. Some would way say it was a case of taking a beautiful flyer. But when it turns out as well as that, it's everyone else who is taking a flyer………..

Apivia at the Fastnet Rock, after a strategic master-stroke which made it look as though every other boat in the race had made a tactical error.Apivia at the Fastnet Rock

Tracker below

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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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