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The Royal Ocean Racing Club 2021 season got underway on Easter Saturday with an inshore race in the Solent of approximately 38 nautical miles, the first of three races in the 2021 RORC Spring Series. The top three boats included the fastest and slowest rated boats under IRC as well as the top Two-Handed team. RORC Commodore James Neville, racing HH42 Ino XXX took line honours and the overall win after IRC time correction. Kelvin Rawlings racing Sun Fast 3300 Aries, Two-Handed with Stuart Childerley, was runner up by just six seconds on corrected time from Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner BLT. Ed Bell’s JPK 1180 Dawn Treader was just 44 seconds off the podium.

James Neville and the Ino XXX crew were enjoying the sunshine in Cowes Yacht Haven after the race. “It was a good day out in great conditions, and you can’t win and complain!” laughed James. “We had a reduced crew of nine which we are trying out as our offshore configuration. We have much the same team as before and we practised for a couple of days before the race. I was a pity not to race the Easter Challenge which has been going strong for 30-years, but everyone was desperate to get out after a long winter and it was fantastic to see all the boats out. All credit, especially to BLT, it was pretty choppy in places with wind against tide and that would have been a hard race in a Quarter Tonner.”

Starting downwind from the Royal Squadron Line, the fleet split evenly between the island and mainland shores. Sailplane, Tigris, Stormwave and Just So got away well close to the Squadron Platform. A north easterly breeze of 13 knots built during the course of the race, gusting up to 20 knots. After a slack tide at the start, the incoming tide produced ever-increasing, classic Solent chop. With eight legs at every point of sail, the RORC Race Team set a course that tested boat handling, as well as tactical skills.

Kelvin Rawlings racing Sun Fast 3300 Aries, Two-Handed with Stuart ChilderleyKelvin Rawlings racing Sun Fast 3300 Aries, Two-Handed with Stuart Childerley. Photo: Rick Tomlinson

Aries was the winner of the IRC Two-Handed Class, James Harayda’s Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo, racing with Dee Caffari was runner-up and Rob Craigie’s Sunfast 3600 Bellino, racing with Deb Fish was third.

“It was all down to Stuart Childerley, I am only the labourer on the bow!” joked Kelvin Rawlings after Aries won the 13-strong IRC Two-Handed Class with a combined crew age of 126 years. “Our aim was to win it by sailing as best and as hard as we can. The race was really good in terms of the course and the conditions – I enjoyed every second of it. We feel confident in our tactical ability, but our boat handling is not very special, and we need to improve on that.”

Sam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner BLTSam Laidlaw's Quarter Tonner BLT Photo: North Sails/Ronan Grealish

“40 miles is a long old way in a Quarter Tonner, especially when it’s windy” commented BLT’s Brett Aarons. “The beats were pretty bumpy, wet and cold. Having said that it was great to get racing again. Competing in a fleet of bigger boats can be frustrating at times, but it is a good way to really improve our positioning on the racecourse and that will raise our performance against other Quarter Tonners.”
Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner BLT will be racing in the RORC Spring Series. Laidlaw has won the Quarter Ton Cup twice and BLT won the Quarter Ton Cup in 1980. The vintage Jacques Fauroux design is currently the smallest boat entered for the race. “We usually compete at the RORC Easter Challenge, as it’s a good start to the season. This is a low-key series with no stress. A perfect opportunity to shake the cobwebs away, do some training, and test the modifications to the boat over the winter.”

The RORC Spring Series continues with the second race, scheduled to start on Saturday 10th April. The Notice of Race requires that all crew shall comply with current Covid-19 guidelines, and with respect to social distancing at all times.

Full results here

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The fifth edition of the IRC European Championship will take place in Hyères, France, organised by the COYCH (Cercle d'Organisation du Yachting de Compétition Hyérois), in collaboration with the UNCL (Union Nationale pour la Course au Large).

Following Cork Week in 2016, Marseille in 2017, Cowes in 2018, and San Remo in 2019 which crowned the French team of Absolutely, the 2021 edition of the European IRC Championship will take place in Hyères from 23 to 27 June with four days of racing on one of the most competitive & popular sailing areas in the Mediterranean.

Alternating between the North and the South of Europe (the Channel and the Mediterranean Sea), the IRC European Championship is a flagship event of the 2021 IRC season and aims to bring together more than 60 boats.

The 2021 IRC European Championship is open to all IRC rated boats. It will consist of a minimum of four coastal or tactical races (coefficient 1) and a long coastal race (coefficient 2).

At the end of the week, a Trophy rewarding the leaders of each IRC Class will be awarded, as well as a Special Trophy for the first in the overall ranking who will be crowned European IRC Champion 2021.

2021 IRC Europeans Programme

  • Wednesday 23 June 09:00 – 18:00 Registration and rating inspection
  • Thursday 24 June 09:30 – Briefing / 12:00 Racing
  • Friday 25 June Racing
  • Saturday 26 June Racing
  • Sunday 27 June Racing and awards ceremony
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The ‘stay at home’ rule in the UK will end on the 29th March allowing the Royal Ocean Racing Club to organise a Spring Series of racing in April and early May. With some government restrictions still in place, three races are planned to offer crews the chance for some early season training and race practice. The series is open to IRC rated boats including an IRC Two-Handed Class and MOCRA rated multihulls.

The first race of the RORC Spring Series is scheduled to start on Saturday 3rd April from the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes. One long race is planned of approximately 6-8 hours duration and online entry is open.

Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood will be competing in the RORC Spring SeriesMichael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood will be competing in the RORC Spring Series Photo: Paul Wyeth

Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood will be competing in the RORC Spring Series. This will be the first RORC race of the year in preparation for their Rolex Fastnet Campaign. “Like everyone else, we are desperate to get back on the water and this series is a very pragmatic solution to the current restrictions,” commented Michael. “It is a safe way to get almost fully-crewed boats back racing. For us, this is an absolute no-brainer.”

Kelvin Rawlings’ Sun Fast 3300 Aries training in The Solent. Photo: John Green CowesKelvin Rawlings’ Sun Fast 3300 Aries training in The Solent. Photo: John Green Cowes

IRC Two-Handed is expected to be the largest class racing in the RORC Spring Series. Early entries include 2020 RORC Yacht of the Year, JPK 10.10 Jangada. Richard Palmer will return to the fray after a knee operation and will team up with Jeremy Waitt. 2020 IRC Two-Handed Champions James Harayda and Dee Caffari, will be racing the Sun Fast 3300 Gentoo. Kelvin Rawlings’ Sun Fast 3300 Aries will be racing with the RORC for the first time. Rawlings will be racing Two-Handed with Stuart Childerley, the team won the Two-Handed class in the 2015 Rolex Fastnet Race.

“Kelvin’s got another big birthday and he wanted to treat himself, have some fun and we really enjoy racing together,” commented Stuart. “The RORC Spring Series is an opportunity for us to continue the training we started last year before lockdown. We are especially keen on developing our polars for the boat and hopefully, we will have some long legs to improve our data. Ultimately we want to improve our performance by getting to know how to sail Aries.”

Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner BLT Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner BLT Photo: Louay Habib

Sam Laidlaw’s Quarter Tonner BLT will be racing in the RORC Spring Series. Laidlaw has won the Quarter Ton Cup twice and BLT won the Quarter Ton Cup in 1980. The vintage Jacques Fauroux design is currently the smallest boat entered for the race. “We usually compete at the RORC Easter Challenge, as it’s a good start to the season. This is a low-key series with no stress. A perfect opportunity to shake the cobwebs away, do some training, and test the modifications to the boat over the winter.”

The RORC Spring Series Notice of Race requires that all crew shall comply with current Covid-19 guidelines, and with respect to social distancing at all times.

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This Friday’s RORC interview guest is with Deb Fish - one of the most successful Two-Handed sailors racing with the Royal Ocean Racing Club.

Like most of the thousands of RORC members, Deb is an amateur sailor who enjoys the challenges of offshore racing and has competed Round Ireland.

Watch the half-hour interview with Deb Fish that gives an insight into maximizing performance for offshore racing, suitable for any sailor to put into practice.

Deb Fish has been racing with Rob Craigie Two-Handed on Sun Fast 3600 Bellino. Winning their class in the 2019 RORC Season’s Points Championship, Bellino beat over 100 professional and amateur teams. Bellino also achieved second overall for the 2019 season, racing against over 500 teams in a Rolex Fastnet Race year.

One of the most successful Two-Handed sailors racing with the RORC - Deb Fish on Bellino collects silverware at the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick TomlinsonOne of the most successful Two-Handed sailors racing with the RORC - Deb Fish on Bellino collects silverware at the 2019 Rolex Fastnet Race © Rick Tomlinson

Deb works for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and in 2011 received an OBE for her work with the UK Armed Forces.

Watch the half-hour interview with Deb Fish: an insight into maximizing performance for offshore racing, suitable for any sailor to put into practice.

On: Friday 26 March 1700 below

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The 2022 RORC Transatlantic Race will see a collaboration between two eminent yacht clubs; The Royal Ocean Racing Club and Yacht Club de France, as they team up for the next edition of the 3,000 nm (5,500km) race from Lanzarote, Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

With an interest in expanding their programme of races, the Paris-based Yacht Club de France were keen to seek an alliance with the Royal Ocean Racing Club and the International Maxi Association to promote the already established RORC Transatlantic Race to its members and affiliated clubs. Modern IRC boats, as well as classic yachts will be invited to participate in the 8th edition of the annual race which has attracted previous entries from around the world to date.

“With the still-growing popularity of offshore racing in France and amongst our membership, we are very happy to join together with one of the most active and renowned offshore racing clubs in the world – the Royal Ocean Racing Club. We will be honoured to present a trophy on behalf of our historic club and help promote the RORC Transatlantic Race to our members and through our 32 associated clubs in France,” explains President of Yacht Club de France, Philippe Heral.

The dramatic volcanic mountains of Lanzarote make an impressive backdrop as the RORC Transatlantic Race fleet head for GrenadaThe dramatic volcanic mountains of Lanzarote make an impressive backdrop as the RORC Transatlantic Race fleet head for Grenada Photo: James Mitchell

The longest offshore race in the RORC’s Season’s Points Championship, which consists of over 20 events, the RORC Transatlantic Race was originally set up as a feeder race for the popular RORC Caribbean 600, to allow RORC members and Maxi boat owners the opportunity to race across the Atlantic before competing in the Caribbean regatta season.

“We very much look forward to working alongside our colleagues at the Yacht Club de France, which is one of the oldest yacht clubs in France (1867), to promote the race to its members and associations, and open the event to a wider audience,” commented RORC Commodore James Neville. "This is not the first time we have worked together as the RORC has used the Yacht Club de France’s prestigious Paris headquarters for the organisation of dinners for RORC members based in France."

Since the inaugural race in 2014, the RORC Transatlantic Race has been run in association with The International Maxi Association who award an impressive silver trophy to the Line Honours winner each year and the 2022 race will continue this custom.

Teasing Machine arriving in the sunny Caribbean after the Atlantic crossing in the RORC Transatlantic Race Photo: Arthur Daniel

IMA Secretary General, Andrew McIrvine said: “Since Charlie Barr first raced across the Atlantic back in the early 1900s in his three-masted schooner, its lure has drawn dozens of sailors who have a shared dream. Whether a passionate owner of a Maxi yacht, a modern IRC or classic yacht, or an experienced or novice crew, those who have competed in the RORC Transatlantic Race have fulfilled their ambition and we are delighted to be working alongside RORC and Yacht Club de France to help achieve this.”

The RORC Transatlantic Race will start on 8th January 2022 from Lanzarote and hosted by Calero Marinas in the Canary Islands.

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RORC's North Sea Race and Vuurschepen Race have both been cancelled due to travel restrictions in the UK and the North Sea Regatta has decided to organise an 'exciting replacement race'.

During this year’s upcoming Ascension Day Weekend, on Friday, May 14th and Saturday, May 15th the North Sea Regatta will host a brand-new Race: the NSR C-19 Windmill Race.

The NSR C-19 Race will cover a figure-eight course providing exciting and challenging racing around existing marks such as buoys, wind farms and platforms on the North Sea, starting and finishing in Scheveningen. The ORC/IRC 1 and 2 divisions and the Double Handed division will sail a 160 NM long course and the ORC 3 and SW-division will follow a short course of 130 NM.

“The NSR C-19 Windmill Race is a great alternative offshore race to replace both the Vuurschepen Race and the RORC North Sea Race. Due to the strict travel restrictions to enter the UK and the current Covid-19 regulations both races won’t be able to take place this year,” comments Peter Tjalma chair of the North Sea Regatta Foundation.

The North Sea Race C-19 Windmill Race Map courseThe North Sea Race C-19 Windmill Race Map course

Frans Driessen, Event Director of the North Sea Regatta adds: “On the day before the start, Ascension Day May 13th, the race teams have the opportunity to prepare their yachts for the race. On both the preparation day as well as the awards ceremony day, the organizing committee anticipates planning a fun-filled programme suitable to fit the Covid-19 regulations in place at that time.”

The NSR-19 Windmill Race counts as a qualifier event for the Fastnet Race 2021. In order to qualify to participate in the Fastnet Race at least 50% of the crew (with a minimum of 2) including the Person in Charge is required to have sailed 300 NM of offshore races, where an offshore race is considered to be more than 75 miles including at least one night at sea.

NSR Re-Save The DateNSR Re-Save The Date

“With the cancellation of the originally scheduled races, there is even an opportunity to organize an extra Fasnet qualifying race on Tuesday, May 11th and Wednesday, May 13th.

Interested skippers can send a mail to [email protected]” concludes Frans.

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Following on from the UK Government's Roadmap out of lockdown’ on Monday 22nd February, the RORC Committee, working with the RYA and Government, is confident that overnight racing will return for the 2021 RORC Season’s Points Championship. Some changes will be necessary for the early part of the season, but unless the recovery from the pandemic changes, the world’s largest offshore championship will go ahead, including the 49th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race.

“Whilst the RORC would like to run our full programme of races, the reality as a consequence of the pandemic is that the RORC Easter Challenge, Cervantes Trophy and North Sea Race are cancelled. However, with COVID-19 protocols in place, the club intends to organise a RORC Spring Series during April and May. We are also considering an additional longer race for Two-Handed Teams,” commented RORC Racing Manager Chris Stone.

Fastnet Race Likely to have COVID Protocols

“The Rolex Fastnet Race is expected to be a fully crewed race, but more than likely to have some COVID-19 protocols for crews to follow. Our meetings with immigration authorities in both the UK and France have been positive and productive, and we continue our discussions with the RYA and health professionals on minimising risk to our competitors. Throughout this pandemic, our partners in France have never wavered in their commitment to give all competitors a fantastic welcome when they arrive in Cherbourg,” continued Stone.

RORC racing is expecting to returns to the Solent with the 2021 RORC Spring Series Photo: Paul WyethRORC racing returns. 2021 RORC Spring Series in the Solent © Paul Wyeth

RORC Spring Series

The 2021 RORC Spring Series will consist of three long day races, starting from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line. Designed to last between 6-8 hours, the permitted crew is expected to be up to 80% of the IRC certificate allowance, which is to be confirmed in March following further consultation with the relevant authorities:-

  • RORC Spring Series 1: Saturday 03 April
  • RORC Spring Series 2: Saturday 10 April
  • RORC Spring Series 3: Saturday 01 May

The 2021 RORC Season’s Point’s Championship is scheduled to continue with regular offshore races from late May through to September, including the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race, starting from Cowes on Sunday 8th August.

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The Royal Ocean Racing Club in London has published new dates for its 2022 ORC/IRC World Championship

The second edition of this biennial event will be held from 23 June to 1 July 2022 in Porto Cervo.

After consultation between the Federazione Italiana Vela (FIV), the Unione Vela Altura Italiana (UVAI) and the Union Nationale pour la Course au Large (UNCL), the Offshore Racing Congress (ORC), the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) and the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda (YCCS), the dates for the 2022 ORC/IRC World Championship have been changed.

The new dates for the event will be from 23 June to 1 July 2022.

A large fleet is expected to take part in Porto Cervo, with organisation provided by the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda.

The new dates will avoid any overlap with the Rolex Giraglia regatta scheduled for mid-June.

The Notice of Race for the 2022 ORC/IRC World Championship will be published in June 2021, one year ahead of the regatta.

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Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon crossed the finish line of the 7th edition of the RORC Transatlantic Race at 04:53 UTC in an elapsed time of 9 days, 18 hours, 53 mins and 40 secs. Green Dragon wins the IMA Trophy and takes Monohull Line Honours for the RORC Transatlantic Race.

Olivier Magre’s Class40 Palanad 3 was less than five hours behind, completing the 2735-mile race in a phenomenal elapsed time of 10 days, 1 hour, 43 mins and 18 secs. For the moment, Palanad 3 have scored the best corrected time under IRC for the RORC Transatlantic Race Trophy.

Green Dragon becomes the seventh boat to win the International Maxi Association’s IMA Trophy. Whilst this year’s race is a different route, Green Dragon is the first monohull to complete the RORC Transatlantic Race in under 10 days. The Secretary-General of the IMA, Andrew McIrvine commented: “Congratulations and best wishes from the IMA to Johannes and the Green Dragon team. We are sorry not to able to greet you, as we would have in more usual times, but we hope you enjoyed the race.”

“It is an honour to win the IMA Trophy, as so many famous boats have done, but to finish the race in such a fast time is incredible. Although we finished in Antigua and not Grenada, the route we took was to the south, so there is not much difference in the miles we have raced,” commented Green Dragon’s Johannes Schwarz.

Celebrations on board Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon after winning the IMA Trophy and Monohull Line Honours in the RORC Transatlantic RaceCelebrations on board Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon after winning the IMA Trophy and Monohull Line Honours in the RORC Transatlantic. Race. Green Dragon crew: Kees Bos, Alexis Duvernoy, Jonathan Florent, Florian Guezennec, Jens Lindner, Angel Lingorski, Jorge Lorenzo Roman, Elena Malakhatka, Peter Marchal, August Ruckman, Johannes Schwarz (Skipper), Anton Tajiev, Ada Westerinen.

“In the early part of the race we didn’t push too hard because we are a mixed pro-am crew and there were strong winds on the reach from Lanzarote to Tenerife,” explained Schwarz. “Later in the race we deployed the big kite and the conditions were just so fantastic. It was really special and very emotional for all the crew - we went faster and faster. I have to say that we are deeply impressed by the performance of the Class40s, they were so incredible! When we arrived in Antigua, it was not possible for the RORC team to meet us due to the curfew, but as if by magic, there was a cooler of cold beer on the dock!”

Green Dragon crew: Kees Bos, Alexis Duvernoy, Jonathan Florent, Florian Guezennec, Jens Lindner, Angel Lingorski, Jorge Lorenzo Roman, Elena Malakhatka, Peter Marchal, August Ruckman, Johannes Schwarz (Skipper), Anton Tajiev, Ada Westerinen.

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 (1200 UTC Sunday 17 January) Johannes Schwarz’s Volvo 70 Green Dragon is leading the RORC Transatlantic Race for Monohull Line Honours and is approximately 500 miles from Antigua

The race reaches an exciting stage on the ninth day with the leading boats closing in on the finish line in Antigua. Oren Nataf’s Multi50 Trimaran Rayon Vert, skippered by Alex Pella was under 400 miles from the finish and expected to take Multihull Line Honours on Monday 18th January.

Olivier Magre’s Class40 Palanad 3 was just 60 miles behind Green Dragon and is expected to finish the 2,735 nautical mile race in just over 10 days - lightning-quick for a 40-footer. “The boat is going fast!” commented Palanad 3’s Luke Berry. “The only problem we have is the seaweed. We clean the rudder after a gybe, but have also resorted to taking the kite down and trying to sail backwards! All is good, so we mustn’t complain.”

Half of the time, racing in the 2,735-mile RORC Transatlantic Race is conducted at night. Whilst moonlight can guide the way, it becomes much more difficult to see, let alone adapt to a sudden change in conditions. For this race, in messages sent back to the RORC Race Team, competitors have reported significant squall activity, especially at night.

Antoine Carpentier’s Class40 Redman looks unlikely to catch their sistership Palanad 3 in the race to the finish. In his recent blog, Carpentier describes the frustration at night on Day 8. “Last night was not good for us (Saturday 16 Jan.). A local cloud formed sucking the wind from 20 knots down to just six knots and shifting 90 degrees. In torrential rain we put in a series of gybes to get out of the position; there was no sleep for the Redman crew. When we looked at the race sched. updates and saw our friends on Palanad 3 had not lost any speed, we were green with envy. How to stay motivated? All our efforts to get the boat to move as quickly as possible will have been in vain if we give up.”

Class40 Redman also reports problems with Sargassum seaweed during the RORC Transatlantic Race © Antoine Carpentier Sailing Sebastien Saulnier’s Sun Fast 3300 Moshimoshi gybed on to starboard on Saturday evening. In the last 48 hours, Moshimoshi has turned a 16-mile deficit into a 40-mile lead on Benedikt Clauberg’s First 47.7 Kali.

Benedikt Clauberg commented via satellite about encountering a squall in darkness, which has dramatically affected their performance: “At night without the moon it is so dark that we don’t see even one boat length in front of us, watching only the compass and wind instruments. If the clouds arrive it becomes more than black and the wind can pick up very quick. After surfing at up to 13kts we got hit hard by a strong gust with rain and ripped our spinnaker. With everyone clipped on we got it down and went into cruising mode for the rest of the night. Today the sun is back but we are now in ‘Schmetterling’ mode as we say in Swiss, or wing-on-wing. Otherwise, all is good on board. The crew had a salty shower and are having fun and we see birds and flying fish. Dinner is a Porcini Risotto with a tomato mozzarella salad caprese. We hope you all are fine and no bad news on the other side.”

News from Tim and Mayumi Knight, racing Pogo 12.50 Kai is that they have been racing conservatively due to a gear problem. However, the latest news from Tim is: “Much of our problem has been sorted out and we are back sailing less cautiously with a target speed of 7-8 knots. Kai was approaching halfway in the race and 1,560 miles from the finish.

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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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