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A European system of measuring the impact of tourism on communities is to be introduced on a number of islands off the west Irish coast this summer.

Three Aran islands and Inishbofin off Galway, along with Donegal’s Tory and Arranmore, will participate in the project led by researchers from the new Atlantic Technological University (ATU).

The European Tourism Indicator System (ETIS) was developed by the European Commission as an evidence-based model for collecting information and measuring impacts.

It involves collecting data on 43 specific areas, ranging from tourist spending patterns to gender equality, inclusion and accessibility, transport impact, climate change, energy consumption, waste generation and sewage treatment.

The system helps to measure trends over time, such as the rising percentage of women in management roles; changes in waste water quality; reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and changing impacts of tourism in the community.

The researchers will work with communities, tourism stakeholders and destination managers on gathering the information which will better inform the sustainable management of island tourism, according to ATU president Dr Orla Flynn.

State agencies Fáilte Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta, along with local authorities, will also support the project.

Up until now, detailed tourism indicators have been limited, but the ETIS is a very accessible international model, Dr Diarmuid Ó Conghaíle, ATU’s head of department for heritage and tourism, explained.

“While we are starting with the four Galway islands - and Tory and Arranmore with the support of Údarás na Gaeltachta - the aim is to incorporate all offshore islands from about 2024,” he said.

“It will allow the islands to compare their performance on tourism, will inform planning and sustainable management, and may even create a bit of competition, “Ó Conghaíle said.

“We are hosting community briefings with the participating islands in May, and will be collecting data from the end of that month,” he said.

“The project will be developed through online surveys, with a particular set of questions for the community, for tourists and for tourism operators,” Ó Conghaíle said.

“The information may be gathered digitally or through paper surveys as we are keen to make sure everyone is involved, and everyone has access to the information, “he said.

Given that the data will be “evidence-based”, it will help to support funding applications at national and European level, he said. The information will be published on a dedicated website.

“This is the first year, and we hope this will be an annual ATU project,” he said.

The ATU involves the Galway-Mayo, Sligo and Letterkenny institutes of technology.

The west/north-west group was formally initiated earlier this month by the Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris after technological university status was granted last year to the three institutes.

Published in Aquatic Tourism
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The artists’ exhibition of 21 currachs used as canvases which ran over the summer on the Aran island of Inis Oírr transfers into NUI Galway for Culture Night.

Irish international sculptor John Behan RHA, Tuam-based visual artist Jennifer Cunningham, Mayo-based Ger Sweeney, and Sadia Shoaib, who has been living in direct provision for the past six years, are among those who were given currachs to use as canvases.

Inis Oírr arts centre artistic director Dara McGee painted his own interpretation - entitled Under A Mackerel Sky – which also forms part of the exhibition, hosted by Áras Éanna.

NUI Galway and Áras Éanna will open the exhibition on Friday morning (Sept 17th) in the university’s quadrangle in partnership with Galway Music Residency, ConTempo Quartet.

The quartet will perform a specially selected suite of classical and contemporary music connected to the ocean, composed by Alec Roth, Claude Debussy and Katharina Baker.

The work of Kathleen FureyThe work of Kathleen Furey

NUI Galway drama students will also take part in the event, reciting a selection of poetry by Máirtín Ó Direáin.

A new partnership between NUI Galway and Áras Éanna will also be announced, with the aim of working to promote the islands and the west as places of culture, learning and research.

The university says it has established a new fund to support staff and students who wish to travel to Inis Oírr and use the facilities at Áras Éanna as part of their studies.

Published in Island News
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Islanders with expertise in stone have completed a “jigsaw puzzle” of rock upon timber for an Irish language production of Beckett’s Happy Days on the Aran island of Inis Oírr.

As The Times Ireland reports, director Sarah Jane Scaife worked with designer Ger Clancy and a number of islanders to construct the outdoor set in preparation for the Galway International Arts Festival.

“We all have experience of building stone walls, but this was different,”Inis Oírr resident Matt Seoighe said.

“Tomás Noel Sharry was our stonemason, and five of us worked together in a field at Creig an Staic, and it was difficult enough,” Seoighe said.

Actors Bríd Ní Neachtain and Raymond Keane have been cast as Winnie and Willie for Laethanta Sona, which was translated by Michéal Ó Chonghaíle.

“I’ve been coming here for 28 years and have always been inspired by the place, which is both surreal and existential” Scaife explained.

“My husband, late sound engineer Tim Martin fished from here, my children have been coming since they were small - and after Tim died, so many islanders came for his funeral,”she said.

“So “Beckett sa Creig”, as we call it, has been 28 years a bubbling,” she explained.

Island photographer Cormac Coyne worked with Scaife for the production, which is a collaboration between Company SJ and the Abbey Theatre.

Costumes created by Sinead Cuthbert were inspired by flowers that grow between the cracks in the rock, as Winnie herself appears from the cracks in the rock.

An accompanying exhibition in the island’s arts centre, Áras Éanna documents the building of the set and interviews and photos with women on the island.

Curacha, the exhibition of currachs used as canvases by artists, is also continuing at Áras Éanna and on an outdoor trail until September 12th.

Tickets for the Inis Oírr production of Laethanta Sona from August 30th to September 5th have already been booked out.

However, the play will be performed with subtitles at the Dublin Theatre Festival from October 14th to 17th, with online booking from August 24th.

Read The Times Ireland here

Published in Island News
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Turbot Island's main claim to fame has been its sighting by trans-Atlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown before they crash-landed at Derrygimlagh bog in north Connemara on June 15th, 1919.

Turbot or “Inishturbot” is a few miles west of Clifden and south of Omey. One very sad and memorable event in its history was the loss of islanders Patrick O’Toole (58), Patrick Stuffle (48) and Michael Wallace (62) in September 1974.

The three men were on their way home to Turbot from watching the All Ireland football final in Clifden when their currach capsized.

Trans-Atlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown sighted Turbot Island shortly before they crash-landed   Transatlantic aviators John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown say they sighted Turbot Island shortly before they crash-landed in Connemara over one hundred years ago

Four years later, the population of about 60 was relocated to the mainland.

The ruin of the old schoolhouse on Turbot IslandThe ruin of the old schoolhouse on Turbot Island

That event was remembered last year with the release of a video, accompanied by music by Peter Knox. It was based on a poem called Turbot Men which was written by a mainland resident Joseph O’Toole after the fishermen drowned.

Peter Knox (left) and Turbot islander John O'ToolePeter Knox (left) and Turbot islander John O'Toole

Dutch couple and Turbot “new islanders” Stefan and Hanneke Frenkel who financed the video weathered last year’s first pandemic wave out there. Brian Hughes of the Abbeyglen Hotel in Clifden, who hosted the video’s launch, also has a house there.

Hanneke Frenkel collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot islandHanneke Frenkel (above and below) collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot islandHanneke Frenkel collecting "sea rope" to make carpets last year on Turbot island

This week’s Wavelengths podcast also has an interview with John O’Toole, whose house the Frenkel's purchased all those years ago. O’Toole was reared on Turbot, left at the age of ten, but maintains a strong connection with the island.

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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The Irish Islands' Federation has described as a "very unsatisfactory situation" that on offshore islands where there are not resident medical facilities or dispensaries, islanders are being required to travel to the mainland for Covid 19 vaccine injections.

The Secretary of Comhdháil Oileán na hEireann (the Islands' Federation), Rhoda Twombly, said this showed a lack of foresight and consideration and particularly affected older islanders who had been isolating for a year.

Published in Island News
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The challenges for the economies of Ireland’s offshore islands in a “post-COVID world” will be discussed with a number of contributors at a “virtual summit” next Wednesday (Sept 2).

Comdháil Oileáín na hÉireann, the Irish Island Federation, is supporting the free “webinar”, hosted by Dr Noirín Burke of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network and Trish Hegarty of Inis Communications in Donegal.

As Afloat previously reported, The “webinar” is Ireland’s “virtual hub event” for the second global Virtual Island Summit, involving over 100 island communities, from September 7th to 13th.

“Islanders work hard to maintain their economies, stay connected and create a sustainable future, something that has been extra challenging this year with Covid-19,” Dr Burke says.

Ms Hegarty says the event will explore how islands connect “to each other, to the mainland and to other islands across Europe and the world”.

Islanders working in enterprise, economic and community development and other experts working with island communities in areas like energy, sustainability, technology and connectivity will participate.

Irish Island Federation secretary Rhoda Twombly noted that her members are “more than used to connecting online” because of their physical distance and separation from the mainland.

“But in this time of social distancing and such an uncertain future, it’s more important than ever to strengthen our national and global connections to learn from each other’s experiences,”she said.

Contributors to the event include Virtual Island Summit founder and “Forbes Top 30 under 30” innovator James Ellsmoor; Ms Twombly and John Walsh of Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann and the European Small Islands Federation; Cathy Ní Ghóill, manager of Comharchumann Forbartha Arann; and Máirtín Ó Méalóid, manager of Cape Clear Island Cooperative and Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann vice-chair.

Also contributing are award-winning Mayo-based journalist Áine Ryan, who is interested in issues affecting rural and peripheral communities; University College, Cork researcher Dr Sarah Robinson, who is working with island communities on Bere, Sherkin and Cape Clear to establish community radio; Irish Tech News chief editor Simon Cocking; and Brendan Smith, education and public engagement officer at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics in Galway.

Attendance is free but registration is essential to take part.

To register on Zoom, click here

Published in Island News
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Historial Castle Island in Roaringwater Bay off the coast of Schull, West Cork is on the market for offers in excess of €1m.

The island is located immediately east of the entrance to Schull Harbour and south-west of Horse Island. It is readily accessed from either Schull Harbour or Rossbrin Cove.

It is one of very few privately owned islands in the area.

The island, which extends to approximately 123.85 acres or c. 50.12 hectares, was home to a small community of approximately fifteen families who were last resident on the Island up to the year 1870.

A substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stagesA substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages

According to the auctioneer Dominic Daly, the ruins of the original three clusters of houses which made up the community are situated in three distinct locations the first at the pier where the original O’Mahony Castle stands and the other two at each end of the island. Lazy beds can be detected near one of the clusters of houses which look out across Roaringwater Bay and onward to Fastnet lighthouse a naturally beautiful landscape. Currently, the island is in use for agricultural purposes. Tillage was undertaken there in the past. It is now used for grazing.

There is a substantial Pier and Slipway that offers very considerable shelter and access to the island in most weather conditions at all tidal stages. A number of adjoining islands in Roaringwater Bay are inhabited – some with small communities (Long Island, Heir Island, Sherkin Island, Cape Clear Island) and others by single families (West Skeam Island, Horse Island).

Castle Island, Roaringwater BayCastle Island, Roaringwater Bay

Castle Island is home to one of a number of ruined O’Mahony Castles – one of a string along the coastline, all within sight of each other and sited strategically to control the waters of Roaringwater Bay and their abundant resources. The O’Mahony’s became extremely wealthy in their day, charging for fishing and fish processing facilities and for supplies and fresh water. They also formed strong alliances with the Spanish and French fishing fleet and any visitors who worked these waters an alliance that came to the attention of the English crown, which lead to the O’Mahony’s demise in the area.

It is a great opportunity for anyone interested in all water sports particularly sailing and fishing. It also benefits from the warm Gulf Stream and mild south westerly winds. The island can offer total solitude with substantial scope to develop it’s considerable amenities. There are extensive amenities in the area with multiple Harbours in Schull and Baltimore and also good shelter in Rossbin & Crookhaven as well as Cape Clear. In the far distance, the Fastnet Rock Lighthouse can be seen.

West Cork is a predominantly tourist area. It has rugged peninsulas, sandy beaches and bustling market towns. Future use of the island could be for private occupancy or tourism-related development or outdoor pursuits and/or agricultural use.

More details from auctioneer Dominic Daly here

Published in West Cork
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A documentary on how Tory island’s late king Patsy Dan Rodgers led his community’s efforts to secure their rights and a study of a “maverick islander” are scheduled for Galway Film Fleadh’s online programme this weekend.

French filmmaker Loic Jourdain is screening the world premiere of his latest feature on Tory island, entitled The Tribe of Gods.

The 92-minute documentary charts how the late Patsy Dan Rodgers, then the last King of Ireland, continued to represent his community of 150 Irish-speaking islanders after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Jourdain’s company Lugh Films, South-Wind Blows and Idée Originale previously made a documentary on Donegal islander John O’Brien, entitled A turning tide in the life of man, on his efforts to retain his right to fish for wild salmon.

The Tribe of Gods has a cast of Patsy Dan Mag Ruaidhri, Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill, Liam Gallagher, Laurene Boyle and Pádraig Gráinne Duggan, was shown on Saturday, July 11th and there is a trailer below.

Galway-based filmmaker Margaretta D’Arcy and producers Finn Arden and Laurie Allen has directed A Maverick Islander, which will screen on Sunday July 12th.

Her film is a study of Seán (John) Ó Loingsigh from south Connemara, described as “a philosopher, a dreamer, a self-appointed chieftain, a failed playwright, and a minority voice”.

The film charts his efforts to “rise above the elitism associated with the game of golf” and build a golf course in the bog which might also help to keep Connemara’s islands district, Ceantar na nOileán alive.

Activist, performer and film director Margaretta D’Arcy is now in her 87th year, and is a member of Aosdána. A Maverick Islander is available on Sunday July 12th at 1200 by booking here

A trailer for The Tribe of Gods is below

Published in Island News
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The common challenges faced by island communities will be shared during the second global Virtual Island Summit which takes place in September.

Some 140 ambassadors representing some 10,000 islanders will participate in the summit online from September 7th to 13th.

The event “seeks to build digital bridges between island communities around the world, regardless of size, political status, or location,” its founder James Ellsmoor, a “Forbes 30 Under 30” entrepreneur, says.

“Islands often face similar challenges to one another but are forced to tackle them separately due to barriers created by distance, language, and culture,” he says.

"We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands"

National Aquarium of Ireland director of education Dr Noirín Burke, who is a team member of the Irish Ocean Literacy Network, and Inis Communications director Trish Hegarty, based in Inishowen, Co Donegal, will participate in the summit.

“We are an island nation set on the edge of Europe, with over a dozen populated offshore islands,” Ms Hegarty says.

“ This summit gives us and our offshore islanders the chance to connect with other islanders across the globe and share lessons in island innovation,” she says.

Participating ambassadors will represent island communities ranging from Ireland to Öland in Sweden, from to Fiji to Jamaica to Hawai’i and Tierra del Fuego in Chile.

For more information, visit the Island Innovation website here

Published in Island News
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Gales over the weekend have cushioned the impact of full re-opening of offshore islands to visitors as COVID-19-related restrictions are eased.

However, there has been a steady increase in traffic to the Aran islands, served currently by one ferry from Ros-a-Mhíl in Galway to all three islands.

Ros-a-Mhíl company Island Ferries requires passengers to wear masks. However, Comhar Caomhán Teo, the Inis Oírr co-op, has asked the Government to sanction resumption of the subsidised ferry to Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr as this would allow for greater social distancing.

Former Gaeltacht and Island minister Sean Kyne - now a senator - had argued for a phased re-opening of all islands on public health grounds, stating he had received compelling medical advice from island doctors.

He had opposed the advice from the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) which had cleared visits to offshore islands from all parts of Ireland from June 29th.

Several days before the announcement, Inis Oírr said that 92 per cent of its residents and businesses oppose re-opening for the remainder of the summer due to fears over the spread of Covid-19.

There has been one confirmed case of Covid-19 to date on the largest island of Inis Mór, with a population of 800 people. All three Aran islands have had water rationing over the last couple of months, with night-time restrictions on two islands only eased last week.

Two Co Clare-based ferry companies offering seasonal day trips to the Aran islands and Cliffs of Moher did not sail to the two smaller islands last week due to the residents’ concerns.

Mr Bill O’Brien of Doolin Ferry Company, which has three vessels with capacity for almost 600 passengers in total, said he had received an email from the Inis Oírr co-op after its vote, asking his company to respect the wishes of the islanders.

“We said we’d do that, but we are hoping in a week or two that this might change,” Mr O’Brien said.

Doolin 2 Aran Ferries marketing manager Joan Hamilton said that it was also “respecting the wishes of the people of Inis Oírr” and had decided not to sail to Inis Meáin also as it had limited facilities and “it would not be fair to them”.

Inis Meáin businessman and owner of the internationally successful knitwear company Tarlach de Blacam said he believed the debate over the pressures of tourism on the islands was “now taking place”.

“People including my son [Ruairí de Blacam of the Inis Meáin Restaurant] have invested in quality accommodation on the three islands and that brings in more revenue than day-trippers,” he said. “This debate about sustainable tourism is taking place now all over Europe.”

Inis Mór wedding celebrant Dara Molloy said that effectively there had been a phased re-opening last week, as only one Island Ferries boat was sailing from Ros-a-Mhíl for all three islands and there had been “no big crowds”.

Meanwhile, as The Sunday Times reports today, Aran island residents have expressed anger and disappointment over a social media post – uploaded during a divisive debate over re-opening to visitors without adequate supports - which depicted them as one of the earliest primates in the human evolutionary tree.

The graphic, which has since been removed, compared “the people of Aran” to Australopithecus robustus, an extinct species dating to between 1.5 million and 2 million years old and first identified from fossil remains in South Africa.

Over a caption reading “Minister Sean Kyne says ‘Islanders are nervous about reopening after not seeing any tourists for a long number of months’,” the graphic showed five evolving primates with one arrow for “The people of Aran” pointing to the hunched Australopithecus and another for “People on the Mainland” pointing to upright Homo sapiens.

In the second graphic, a cartoon image of Mr Kyne depicted him as “Minister for Primitive People”.

Mr Kyne said he had been sent the links but had taken no action as he believed the debate had been very heated and such criticism was “part of the cut and thrust of politics”.

Comdháil Oileáin na hÉireann/Irish Island Network secretary Rhoda Twombly said she understood the social media graphics posted by Inis Mór’s Óstan Arann owner Keith Madigan had been removed after criticism.

She said she would “deplore anything that denigrates any of the island population”.

Mr Madigan did not respond to requests for comment.

Read more on The Sunday Times report here

Published in Island News
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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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