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Courtmacsherry RNLI’s volunteers called out early this morning (Saturday 18 June) at 4.35am to go to the aid of a 40ft yacht in difficulties 21 miles south east of the Old Head of Kinsale in West Cork.

The all-weather lifeboat Frederick Storey Cockburn, under coxswain Ken Cashman and a crew of six, was quickly away at 4.47am and proceeded quickly to the reported location of the casualty vessel.

The yacht, which was on passage from Spain to Cobh with four people on board, had developed mechanical and other difficulties in northeasterly Force 5 sea conditions and requested assistance.

Once the lifeboat reached the yacht at 5.45am, Cashman and crew assessed the situation and decided to establish a tow at a safe speed in choppy waters to the nearest port of Courtmacsherry, where the yacht was tied safely at the harbour pontoon around 8.30am.

Courtmacsherry RNLI deputy launching authority Vincent O’Donovan said: “It was great to see so many of our volunteers respond so quickly from their beds early this morning to this callout and it was prudent that the yacht made a decision early this morning to seek assistance in some heavy seas as they had battled the elements from 100 miles off shore.”

Joining Cashman on this callout were mechanic Chris Guy and crew members Mark John Gannon, Dara Gannon, Donal Young, Ciaran Hurley and Denis Murphy.

This was the third callout in the last three days for the Courtmacsherry lifeboat station, following a search for a swimmer reported missing off Garrettstown on Thursday who subsequently had got to shore themselves, and the rescue of a 13ft RIB with one person on board on the same day.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

As a weekend of aquatic activity approaches, Water Safety Ireland, the Coast Guard and the RNLI have issued a joint appeal calling for caution at waterways nationwide. The appeal aims to reduce summer drownings and comes as figures released for National Water Safety Awareness Week (June 13-19) show that 79 people drowned in 2021. A total of 1,108 drowned in the last ten years, an average of nine every month.

'79 people drowned in 2021, three more than in 2020 and although this is well below the annual average of 111 drownings every year over the last decade, it is still a tragic unnecessary loss of life and a significant public health issue’, commented Roger Sweeney, Acting CEO at Water Safety Ireland. Drownings can happen quickly and silently, and warmer weather sometimes lulls people into a false sense of security, however waterways are still quite cool which affects the muscles needed to swim safely back to shore. Swim at lifeguarded waterways or in designated bathing areas that are known to be safe and have ringbuoys present. Stay within your depth, supervise children closely and never use inflatable toys on open water as you can be swept from shore in an instant.

‘Alcohol is a factor in one third of drownings,’ added Sweeney, ‘and should never be consumed before any aquatic activity as it can lead to someone overestimating their ability and underestimating the risks. Mark Water Safety Awareness Week by having a water safety conversation with loved ones. Make them aware about dangerous rip currents and how quickly an incoming tide can cut walkers off from shore. The Covid-19 pandemic increased the level of interest in aquatic activities and consequently a busy period ensued for the Irish Coast Guard, the RNLI, the Community Rescue Boats and for the Lifeguards trained and assessed by Water Safety Ireland and employed by local authorities. This weekend, let the Lifeguards be there for you.”

Micheál O’Toole, Irish Coast Guard Operations Manager said: ‘This week affords us an excellent opportunity to focus on coastal and water safety and to promote awareness of the Code of Practice for the Safe Operation of Recreational Craft. It is a valuable source of information, advice and best practice operational guidance for owners, masters, operators and users of a range of pleasure and recreational craft operating in Irish coastal and inland waters.’ See; www.safetyonthewater.gov.ie

Kevin Rahill, RNLI Water Safety Lead, added: ‘With the weather improving and more people going in or on the water, it is important to take some basic steps to stay safe while having fun. If you are going swimming, try to avoid going alone and make sure you are visible at all times by wearing a brightly coloured swim cap. Use a tow float and carry a suitable means of communication such as a mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and a whistle. If you get into trouble in the water, Float to Live: lean back, using your arms and legs to stay afloat. Control your breathing, then call for help or swim to safety.

‘For those going afloat, wear a lifejacket or personal floatation device and carry a reliable means of raising the alarm such as a VHF radio or mobile phone. Go prepared by checking the weather forecast and tide times, tell someone where you are going and what time you will be back, and importantly, what to do if you do not arrive back on time. Should you get into difficulty or see someone else in trouble, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Advice to keep safe:

  • Swim at Lifeguarded waterways: or at designated bathing areas that are traditionally known to be safe and have ringbuoys present.
  • Swim within your depth – stay within your depth.
  • Watch out for submerged hidden hazards and unexpected depths - get in feet first.
  • Supervise children closely and never use inflatable toys in open water.
  • When walking the shoreline be aware that incoming tides can quickly lead to stranding.
  • Wear a lifejacket when boating or angling and make sure that it is fitted with a crotch strap.
  • When boating, carry a VHF radio, and as a backup a fully charged mobile phone in a waterproof pouch.
  • If you see someone in difficulty or think they are in trouble, use Marine VHF CH 16 or call 112/ 999 and ask for the Coast Guard.
Published in Water Safety

Baltimore RNLI were called out earlier today (Thursday 16 June) to provide assistance to a yacht with two people onboard that was taking part in a race.

The volunteer lifeboat crew launched their inshore lifeboat at 11.45am, following a request from the Irish Coast Guard to go to the assistance of a 7m sailing yacht with two people on board, that had got into difficulty 0.5 miles south of Sherkin Island off the coast of West Cork.

The Baltimore inshore lifeboat crew arrived at the casualty vessel at 11.50am. Volunteer crew member Rob O’Leary was put aboard the casualty vessel to assist in rigging a tow passed to the yacht from the lifeboat.

The inshore lifeboat, with the casualty vessel under tow, then proceeded to Baltimore Harbour, the nearest safe and suitable port. The lifeboat crew secured the casualty vessel at the pier in Baltimore Harbour, and once they made sure that the sailors were happy the lifeboat returned to the station, arriving at 12.33pm.

There were four volunteer crew onboard the lifeboat, Helm Pat O’Driscoll and crew members Ian Lynch, James Kitt and Rob O’Leary. Assisting at the lifeboat station were Rianne Smith and Sean McCarthy. Conditions at sea during the call were calm with a south-easterly force 1 wind, no sea swell and good visibility.

Speaking following the call out, Pat O’Driscoll, Baltimore RNLI Volunteer Helm said: ‘Due to navigational difficulties the sailors were having we decided a tow was necessary and the safest option to assist them. Please remember if you get into difficulty at sea, call 999 or 112 and ask for the Coast Guard.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Youghal RNLI came to the aid of two people on Tuesday morning (14 June) after their 18ft pleasure craft got into difficulty east of Youghal Lighthouse.

The volunteer crew were requested to launch their inshore lifeboat by Mine Head Coast Guard at 11.47am following reports of a broken-down 18ft pleasure craft with two people onboard two miles south-east off Capel Island.

The Atlantic 85 lifeboat, helmed by John Griffin Jnr, launched in calm weather conditions, reaching the casualty within 15 minutes. The vessel had broken down due to engine failure.

On arrival, the lifeboat crew observed that the two men onboard were both safe and well. The crew assessed the situation before deciding to put a crew member onboard the boat to establish a tow line. The crew member stayed onboard while the lifeboat towed the vessel back to the nearest safe port at Ferry Point.

Speaking following the callout, John Griffin, Youghal RNLI’s lifeboat operations manager said: “The crew on the vessel did the right thing in raising the alarm when they knew they were in difficulty, and we would like to commend the crew of a nearby fishing which stayed on scene until the lifeboat arrived.

“As we enter the summer months, we would remind anyone planning a trip to sea to respect the water,” he added.

“Always carry a means of communication as problems can occur at any time and being prepared is key. Always wear a lifejacket and let someone on the shore know where you are going and when you are due back. Should you get into the difficulty, dial 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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The volunteer crew at Union Hall RNLI were requested to launch their inshore Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat Christine and Raymond Fielding at 12.15pm on Monday (13 June) to a 10m fishing vessel with two people onboard that had got propped off The Stags.

The lifeboat, under helm Michael Limrick with crew Paddy Moloney and Darren Collins, launched eight minutes later from the West Cork fishing village in a westerly breeze with moderate sea conditions.

Once on scene, the lifeboat crew carried out an assessment and it was determined, due to the casualty vessel being propped, that a tow should be established. The vessel was towed to the nearest safe port of Union Hall arriving at 2.35pm.

Following the callout, Jim Moloney, Union Hall RNLI deputy launching authority said: “It is always advisable to call the coastguard on 112/999 if you see someone in trouble on or near the water — wear a lifejacket, carry a means of communication, wear suitable clothing for the trip at sea and enjoy your time on the coast over the coming months.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Donaghadee RNLI Lifeboat was launched on Sunday 12 June, at the request of Belfast Coastguard to come to the assistance of a small speedboat that had broken down and was drifting out to sea.

The volunteer crew were paged and requested to launch by the Coastguard at 9.42 pm after a report from a member of the public on Ballyhalbert harbour that a small speedboat was adrift.

With good visibility, a slight sea state and light westerly winds the lifeboat Saxon launched with a complement of seven volunteer crew members onboard and made full speed to the reported location of the casualty vessel in roughly 35 minutes.

Upon arriving on scene the crew members ascertained that the three people on board were in good health, a towline was secured to the vessel and it was towed into Ballyhalbert harbour to the care of the Coastguard Rescue Team.

Saxon returned to Donaghadee Harbour at approximately 11.12 pm, where the crew members cleaned the boat down and made it ready for the next call out.

John Ashwood, Volunteer Coxswain commented ‘ A good outcome this evening as we were alerted while we still had some light, albeit fading, otherwise this could have been a different scenario. We strongly advise that if you are going to sea that you carry a means of communication, preferably a VHF radio which the lifeboat can use to locate your position. The importance of wearing proper life jackets can never be underestimated too. We were glad to get the casualty vessel and three crew members into the safety of Ballyhalbert Harbour.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Volunteers at Red Bay RNLI saved a swimmer on Monday evening (13 June) after she got into difficulty 200m from the shore at Cushendall in County Antrim.

The inshore lifeboat helmed by Emmet Connon and with three crew members onboard, was on a training exercise in Red Bay when at 7.35 pm, a crew member standing on the shore outside the lifeboat station spotted a swimmer in great difficulty. He immediately raised the alarm and the crew on exercise diverted the short distance to the scene.

Weather conditions at the time were good, with an overcast sky and calm seas.

On arrival, the crew observed that the swimmer was struggling to stay afloat. Two crew members jumped into the sea and went to her aid before rescuing the casualty from the water and bringing her onboard the lifeboat where casualty care was administered as the lifeboat made its way back to the station.

Back at the shore, the casualty was handed into the care of a waiting ambulance crew and subsequently transferred to hospital.

Speaking following the call out, Red Bay RNLI Helm Emmet Connon said: ‘This was a frightening experience for the swimmer, and we would like to wish her a speedy recovery. Time was of the essence this evening and we would like to commend our fellow crew member who spotted the casualty was in danger and immediately raised the alarm which allowed us to get to her so quickly and bring her to safety.’

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

Dun Laoghaire RNLI’s new D-class lifeboat was named Joval in a ceremony held on Sunday (12 June) at the bandstand on the town's East Pier. The unusual name comes from a request by the late donor, Mrs. Valerie Staunton, that an inshore lifeboat be funded by her legacy and that the vessel be named after both her and her late husband, John. The couple, both from London, fell in love with Ireland when visiting the country in the 60s and settled here in their later years.

For the ceremony, the station turned the iconic bandstand on the East Pier into a stage with music provided by both Kilmacud Crokes Choir and musicians from Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann.

The donor, the late Mrs. Valerie Staunton, was well represented by friends and former neighbours who were delighted to see the lifeboat that bore John and Valerie’s name and to meet the lifeboat crew who would be carrying out rescues in the new craft. Amber Craughwell, daughter of Mrs. Staunton’s Executor attended with her husband Manus Hingerty and neighbours and friends of the couple from Offaly, Maria McGarry Curley and Jacqueline Duffy, named the lifeboat.

 L-R RNLI Visiting the new lifeboat ‘Joval’ at the inshore boathouse before the ceremony, Trustee and Irish Council Member Paddy McLaughlin with friends and neighbours of the late Mr and Mrs Staunton; Amber Craughwell, Manus Hingerty, Maria McGarry Curley and Jacqueline Duffy L-R RNLI Visiting the new lifeboat ‘Joval’ at the inshore boathouse before the ceremony, Trustee and Irish Council Member Paddy McLaughlin with friends and neighbours of the late Mr and Mrs Staunton; Amber Craughwell, Manus Hingerty, Maria McGarry Curley and Jacqueline Duffy Photo: Nick Leach

Master of Ceremonies was Dun Laoghaire RNLI Lifeboat Operations Manager Ed Totterdell.

For the lifeboat naming ceremony, the RNLI station turned the iconic bandstand on the East Pier into a stageFor the lifeboat naming ceremony, the RNLI station turned the iconic bandstand on the East Pier into a stage Photo: Nick Leach

The lifeboat was accepted into the care of the Institution by RNLI Trustee and Irish Council member Paddy McLaughlin, who himself is a lifeboat Coxswain from Red Bay in county Antrim. In accepting the vessel Paddy said, "I know how special these events are to a station. This isn’t just an occasion but rather an acknowledgement of an incredible lifesaving gift that a donor has given us, a gift that will go on many journeys with the lifeboat crew and one which will save many people over its lifetime."

"The power and the responsibility of the D-class can’t be denied. It was designed and built for a very clear purpose, it’s speed and efficiency making it so effective in saving lives. A highly manoeuvrable, inflatable lifeboat, it generally operates close to shore, coming into its own for searches and rescues close to cliffs and shores, something very familiar to this lifeboat crew."

Dun Laoghaire RNLI's newest lifeboat Helm, Ms. Laura JacksonDun Laoghaire RNLI's newest lifeboat Helm, Ms. Laura Jackson Photo: Nick Leach

The honour of accepting the lifeboat into the care of Dun Laoghaire RNLI fell to the station’s newest lifeboat Helm, Ms. Laura Jackson. Speaking on behalf of the crew she added, "It is a very proud and memorable day for us all. Unfortunately, we do have to say goodbye to our last D class lifeboat Realt na Mara. It served the station faithfully for twelve years but we are very excited to start a new chapter on Joval."

Laura continued, "The D-class lifeboat is the smallest in the fleet, but it saves the most lives. Here is Dun Laoghaire it is put to the test. The lifeboat could be called multiple times a day to a range of different scenarios. From people being cut off by the tide at Sandymount Strand to a swimmer that urgently needs to be rescued. The versatile and adaptable lifeboat is well suited to Dublin Bay and its surrounding shoreline. The lifeboat has been part of the harbour’s history since the 1800s and it remains so to this day."

A Service of Dedication was then held with Rev Gary O’Dowd, Deacon Kellan Scott, and Father Paul Tyrell.

Before the naming of the lifeboat, Maria McGarry Curley and Jacqueline Duffy, friends and former neighbours of Valerie and John Staunton, who had both made the journey from Offaly, shared some details of the couple’s life with the crowd. They came from London and fell in love with Ireland on their first trip here, cruising on the Shannon in the late 1960s. They made many trips to the country and toured the island before they bought their own boat for fishing in the 1980s which they moored in Lusmagh, County Offaly. It was here they retired to in 1993 and their motivation to fund a lifeboat came from their love of the water. The couple also had a great awareness of the dangers of the water and the need for lifesaving equipment. The lifeboat they have funded is the manifestation of that wish, and the couple would be very proud to see to see where their legacy has gone.

The new lifeboat was helmed for the occasion by Nathan Burke, with crew members Chris Watson and Hazel ReaThe new lifeboat was helmed for the occasion by Nathan Burke, with crew members Chris Watson and Hazel Rea Photo: Nick Leach

The new lifeboat was helmed for the occasion by Nathan Burke, with crew members Chris Watson and Hazel Rea. The champagne for the naming had been carefully stored aboard the lifeboat at the time of its launch and with the signal given, the lifeboat was officially named Joval, and the champagne was poured over the bow by the Helm.

The final Vote of Thanks was given by Deputy Launching Authority Robert Fowler and refreshments were provided at the National Yacht Club. Guests who attended the ceremony included An Cathaoirleach of Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, Councillor Lettie McCarthy, and members of Dun Laoghaire Coast Guard. The station would like to extend their thanks to everyone who attended and made the day one to remember.

Published in RNLI Lifeboats

New RNLI Ireland region leader Anna Classon has said she believes there is an awful lot more the organisation can do make it more welcoming for women.

As The Irish Independent reports, Classon and her newly appointed counterpart in RNLI Scotland, Jill Hepburn, are the first women to hold such senior management positions across the charity’s six regions.

Ireland now has the highest number of female volunteers proportionately among its crew, at 12 per cent overall, and there have been a number of role models – including Joan Murphy (now Joan Robertson Edgar), who became first female RNLI crew member on the island of Ireland when she joined the RNLI Red Bay station in Co Antrim in 1972, and Frances Glody, who joined the lifeboat crew member at Dunmore East, Co Waterford, in 1981.

Ireland’s first female coxswain, Denise Lynch, was appointed to Fenit, Co Kerry, while Lisa Forde is a 2nd mechanic in Wicklow, and there are four female lifeboat operation managers at Irish stations.

Classon told the newspaper she doesn’t believe the 12 per cent female volunteer statistic in Ireland is “something to be congratulating ourselves about, because I think there is an awful lot more we can do to make the RNLI more welcoming for women”.

“We have 46 operational stations and 52 lifeboats on the island of Ireland, and only the newer stations are fitted out to accommodate both male and female crew,” she says.

“We need to be more flexible thinking in terms of how we deal with 24/7 availability when there are very able women or men who have young children that they can’t leave at certain times of the day,” she says.

The Irish Independent interview with Classon also profiles four RNLI volunteers – Fin Goggin of Howth station, Galway’s Olivia Byrne, Nadia Blanchfield of Fenit and Síle Scanlon of Ballycotton.

Read more in The Irish Independent here

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Volunteers at Skerries RNLI raced into action on Friday afternoon (10 June) around 1pm following a 999 call reporting two children being blown out to sea on an inflatable from Bettystown beach.

The crew encountered heavy squalls heading north to the location in their Atlantic 85 inshore lifeboat, and with the increased risk to the casualties they requested that Clogherhead RNLI in Co Louth assist in the search.

As the team from Clogherhead were making their way south in their all-weather lifeboat, Skerries RNLI located the casualty vessel — which turned out to be a yellow kayak containing personal belongings but no one on board or in the water nearby.

Dublin Coast Guard issued a Mayday before tasking the Dublin-based Irish Coast Guard helicopter Rescue 116 as well as the Drogheda Coast Guard land unit.

The lifeboat from Skerries immediately began a search pattern in the area, while Clogherhead RNLI commenced a parallel search of the shore from the mouth of the Boyne heading south.

Shortly after the search patterns had begun, Rescue 116 requested Clogherhead RNLI to divert from their course to investigate an object in the water near Gormanstown beach.

However, as they were making their way to the coordinates given, Dublin Coast Guard reported that the owners of the kayak had made contact and confirmed that they were ashore in Bettystown and were safe and well.

The Mayday was cancelled and all units were stood down and returned to their respective bases.

Conditions at the time has a Force 4-5 westerly wind with slight swells and good visibility. There were occasional strong squalls with winds increasing to Force 6 and visibility reduced to poor.

Speaking about the callout, Skerries RNLI press officer Gerry Canning said: “There were two black back supports in the kayak so it’s very easy to see how the person who dialled 999 and asked for the coastguard genuinely believed that someone was in difficulty.

“Thankfully in this case it was a false alarm, but they did exactly what we want people to do when they see someone in trouble.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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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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