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Eve of race-positive COVID test results has ruled out the much-fancied First 50 Checkmate XX co-skippered by Nigel Biggs and Dave Cullen from tomorrow's 700-mile SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow. 

The Howth yacht was the winner of last weekend's 120-mile ISORA off the Dublin coast and on the first weekend of June, the 50-footer chalked up a fifth from eight in IRC Zero at her Irish debut at Wave Regatta in Howth. 

This morning, in her pre-Round Ireland Race predictions Afloat's Mystic Meg had put the – new to Ireland – Checkmate XX at 13/1 to win overall.

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In these hyper-communicated days, we can all follow developing weather situations on a 24/7 basis using input from many sources. Nevertheless, from time to time it puts things in some sort of snapshot focus to watch the scheduled broadcast TV weather programmes. And while as yet we have never ever heard a telly weather person admit that the forecast they gave the previous day turned out to be complete rubbish, it’s notable that at the moment they’re occasionally confessing they’re somewhat bewildered by the array of possibilities for the coming days.

That we’re in such a situation is emphasised by the amount of sailing of considerable Irish interest that is heading down the line. Although it will be experiencing a completely different weather situation to Irish circumstances, Friday’s Newport-Bermuda Race in this the Centenary Year of the organising Cruising Club of America will be in the thoughts of anyone with an awareness of the global development of offshore and ocean racing.

Nearer home, the 60th Anniversary Ailsa Craig Race from Royal Ulster YC in Bangor starting Friday evening is for an 80-mile there-and-back sprint across the North Channel. The distance may be modest enough, but rough weather conditions over this particular race course can be immodest in the extreme.

SB20s ON LOUGH REE, NATIONAL YC REGATTA ON DUBLIN BAY

Then on Saturday, the SB20s gather on Lough Ree for their two-day Westerns. As Irish top crew of Michael O’Connor, David Taylor & Ed Cook are currently racing the Portuguese Nationals at Cascais, it’s reckoned Andrew Deakin with Sonic Boom is the boat to beat.

In a busy sailing weekend, the SB20s will be back in action – as seen here - on Lough ReeIn a busy sailing weekend, the SB20s will be back in action – as seen here - on Lough Ree

Meanwhile, on Dublin Bay, it being a non-Dun Laoghaire Regatta year, Saturday is Regatta Day at the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire. Strawberries and cream may not be quite the special treat they were in times past, but if there has been a decent breeze to give some good sport afloat before hitting the social scene ashore, then the day is special.

Pre-start manoeuvres for the inaugural Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. Photo: W M NixonPre-start manoeuvres for the inaugural Round Ireland Race from Wicklow in 1980. Photo: W M Nixon

And all these events are in addition to the fact that, at 1300 hrs off an already very festive Wicklow, the gun fires to mark the start of the 21st SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race. Even with 2020’s cancellation, we’re looking at 21 stagings of a great race since its foundation in 1980 by Michael Jones of Wicklow Sailing Club. And in the 42 years, since it has deservedly acquired its own rich culture and mythology of seafaring and competition, an extraordinary tapestry of Irish maritime experience.

ROUND IRELAND COUNTDOWN ACCELERATES IN UNPREDICTABLE WEATHER

Thus in the countdown to the race, and in the week of its happening, interests in the wind patterns around our island are running at an exceptional level. Participants afloat, and race followers ashore alike – we all become met experts. Yet at a time when the real official met experts admit to being bewildered, we home-schooled types are left wondering if this is all down to Climate Change, or is the unpredictability of the next few days’ wind and weather just a bit of a fluke which unfortunately coincides with a period when an exceptionally large number of people would appreciate a bit of meteorological precision.

And yet no matter how the winds turn out, a sage observer will generally be able to reduce the favourites to about 50% in what – for 2022’s race – is turning out to be a 45-strong fleet. For the fact is that no matter what the situation is at mid-race, by that time the really hot boats and crews will have got a proper handle on the situation, and when it all finishes, there they are – at the front of the fleet yet again.

In the previous race of 2018, Niall Dowlng’s Baraka GP was back in 23rd overall on CT off the Mayo coast, yet she managed line honours and the overall win by the finish. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’BrienIn the previous race of 2018, Niall Dowling’s Baraka GP was back in 23rd overall on CT off the Mayo coast, yet she managed line honours and the overall win by the finish. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien

MOORE MAGIC GETS TO THE FRONT OF THE FLEET

A classic case in point was the 2018 race, when Niall Dowling’s Ker 43 Baraka was lying 23rd overall while off the North Mayo Coast. But Baraka had a not-so-secret weapon in the person of international navigator Ian Moore - originally of Carrickfergus – who sussed out what was needed to get Baraka back to Wicklow as quickly as possible as the weather developed in the way he anticipated. And as a result of the Moore Magic, Baraka took line honours and the corrected overall win as well.

Looking to 2022, we have admittedly given a daunting hostage to fortune by saying it’s Rockabill’s turn, particularly when she’s up against boats which have already – like the O’Higgins boat herself - proven themselves in this year’s races, such as RORC Commodore James Neville’s HH42 Ino XX, Andrew Hall’s J/125 Jackknife, the new First 50 Checkmate XX (Nigel Biggs & Dave Cullen), and the Sunfast 33000 Cinnamon Girl (Cian McCarthy).

Want to know a sure winner? Maritime Mystic Meg can point the way Want to know a sure winner? Maritime Mystic Meg can point the way 

MARITIME MYSTIC MEG PUTS DOWN THE MARKERS

So at this juncture, it’s timely to consider the general predictions of Maritime Mystic Meg, Afloat.ie’s ultimate insight into future developments. This fount of wisdom, which may be as a real as the miasma which does be on the bog, is actually only interested in our sacred round Ireland Race as a means of profitable betting. And while it all may be more refined by Friday night when we’re putting the final touches to this week’s Sailing on Saturday, here are the preliminary odds from Mystic Meg for the overall winner of Corrected Time:

Round Ireland entriesRound Ireland Race entries at June 15

5/1
Rockabill, Aurelia, Darkwood, Nieulargo, Jackknife, Cavatina, Teasing Machine, Checkmate XX, Ino XXX

10/1
Cinnamon Girl, Samatom, Pyxis, YOYO, Bellino, Indian, Phosphorus II, More Mischief, Mojo,

20/1
Luzern eComm U25, Snapshot, Shindig, Artful Dodjer,

30/1
Bijou, Wild Pilgrim, Asgard, Finally, Prime Suspect, Jezebel, SL ENERGIES Groupe Fastwave, Blue Oyster, Sherkin Irish Offshore Sailing, Lynx Wild West Sailing, StateChassis, Elantic, Kite, Peregrine, Ca Va, Fuji, Arthur, Influence, Black Magic, Hiro Maru, KUKA3, L'ESPRIT D'EQUIPE, Green Dragon, Telefonica Black, Pen Duick VI

 The Volvo 70s Telefonica and Green Dragon getting themselves race ready in Dun Laoghaire Marina this week. Photo: Afloat.ie/David O’Brien The Volvo 70s Telefonica and Green Dragon getting themselves race ready in Dun Laoghaire Marina this week. Photo: Afloat

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Kinsale’s top two-handers Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt with the Sunfast 3300 Cinnamon Girl seem to have already put in enough successful sailing in the season of 2022 to fulfil the ambitions of many crews for a whole year. And all that even if now - at mid-June - the Summer itself seems remarkably unenthusiastic about putting in an enduring appearance, whereas a cold and blustery Spring doesn’t realise that it has long out-stayed its welcome.

Back on the 20th May, when the new 240-mile Inishtearaght Race went off from their home port, the two shipmates and their fully-crewed rivals were sailing on what looked like a gloomy March day. And though they found some sunshine off the southwest seaboard while using rock-bound Inishtearaght for the first time as a race turning mark, by the time they got back to Kinsale the murk had closed in again. But the Cinnamon boys scarcely noticed, as they finished second on the water, took a good first on Corrected Time, and rounded out the month of May by becoming the Afloat.ie “Sailors of the Month”.

Job done. Cinnamon Girl back in Kinsale after being round the Blaskets, closing in on winning the Inish Tearaght race overall. Photo: Robert BatemanJob done. Cinnamon Girl back in Kinsale after being round the Blaskets, closing in on winning the Inish Tearaght race overall. Photo: Robert Bateman

But they were only getting going, for like all Sunfast 3300 crews, they’re campaigning the high-profile new boat whose public debut was most adversely affected by the pandemic. For sure, Cinnamon Girl and other hyper-keen Cork and Dublin Bay offshore boats did manage some sport with carefully restricted events like the Fastnet 450 during the easings of the lockdown. Yet these were almost under-the-radar happenings, not at all like the hell-for-leather competition you relish when putting a new boat of clearly great potential through her paces.

Thus this coming Saturday’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow has added appeal, with its sense of the last of the restrictions being thrown to the winds. And for the Cinnamon Girl and boys, this past weekend saw the buildup accelerating, with a record-breaking positioning passage from Kinsale to the East Coast in which they were whizzing along for hour after hour at speeds of 15 to 21 knots, even managing to see a sunset – albeit a rather watery one – as they made speed along the Wicklow coast.

 


(Above) Cinnamon Girl at the weekend, making 15-21 knots on passage from Kinsale to the East Coast

They’re a formidably experienced team. Cian McCarthy – having learned the ropes with Denis Doyle on Moonduster - has raced the Mini Transat. He got fourth in the first leg, but broke the forestay on week one of transatlantic second leg, yet raced on without a forestay for the rest of the crossing - perhaps a first Transatlantic crossing without a forestay. He also won the BT Global Challenge, raced open 40's as well as many Commodores Cup and Admirals Cup, and has five Round Irelands done previously - two of the double-handed.

Sam Hunt is also a Kinsale native, with broad background in dinghies and keelboats. He was the only civilian in the crew on the British Army boat for the last four Round Irelands. Additionally, he’d lots of wins in Match and Team racing, did a 470 Olympic campaign with Gerbil Owens in 2005 - 06, and has also raced with the Mumm 30's on Mammy, and the Melges with Team Barbarians, while logging successful experience in SB20s and 1720s, and racing the legendary Tiamat in IRC and Commodores Cup series.

While this will be Sam’s fifth Round Ireland, it will be his first double-handed, and he and Cian McCarthy seem to be melding as a formidable duo. They’ve optimised their prospects with in-depth input on sails from Nin O’Leary, and now all they need going round Ireland is more of the conditions they experienced this past weekend to made Cinnamon Girl even more of a force to be reckoned with.

Kinsale in the morning, Wicklow sunset in the evening – that’s the sort of passage-making the Sunfast 3300 can achieve when conditions suit.Kinsale in the morning, Wicklow sunset in the evening – that’s the sort of passage-making the Sunfast 3300 can achieve when conditions suit.

Published in Round Ireland

The rescheduled Offshore Racing Academy Weather Routing Lecture will run this Wednesday 15th June 2022 at 7 pm, just two days before the Round Ireland Race from Wicklow.

Originally it was envisaged to run this programme focusing solely on Expedition and Adrena, however, with the upcoming Round Ireland Race on the 18th of June it has been decided to run this course with a focus on routings for this race and look at other apps and online programs that can also help you achieve superior performance in the Round Ireland race this year.

Kenny RumballKenny Rumball

Weather routing software to be accurate requires a combination of highly accurate computer-generated information including;

  • Wind Data Models, know as GRIBS
  • Tide and Current information
  • Polars
  • Accuarate Navigational Hazards

Not only will the lecture cover the software, but it is also equally important to discuss the pitfalls of some hardware options! Kenny will reveal the secret solutions that are tried and tested in the professional offshore sailing scene in France.

The seminar is free to those that have already signed up to this lecture in the past and also the lecture on ‘Getting the most from your Offshore Racing’ but the modest cost of €30 will apply to new sign-ups.

To sign up, please follow this link here

Published in INSS

Ireland is among 70 teams from eight different nations that have entered this weekend's Royal Ocean Racing Club Myth of Malham Race.

Irish crews include Michael O'Donnells's team on the J121 Darkwood that are now officially entered for the Round Ireland Race in just over two weeks' time. 

As regular Afloat readers know, O'Donnell is sailing with Michael Boyd, Kenny Rumball, and a crew some of Ireland's top offshore sailors in the 700-miler from Wicklow. The crew first raced this season on Darkwood for last month's Cervantes Trophy. 

Also on Myth of Malham duty this weekend is Dublin Bay's Paul Bradley who swaps his berth on the Cruisers One Mills 33 Raptor for the somewhat larger V70 Telefonica Black, pictured below.

The first start is at 1300 BST from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line on Thursday 02 June.

The course mirrors the start of the Rolex Fastnet Race, taking the fleet around notable headlands with complex tides, including Portland Bill and Start Point. The Eddystone Lighthouse, nine miles off the Cornish Coast, is the turning point for the 230-mile race with a finish just outside the Solent. This weekend, celebrations will take place all over the United Kingdom for Her Majesty the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. After IRC time correction, class winners and the overall winner of the Myth of Malham, will have their own cause for celebration.

IRC SZ & Zero

Lance Shepherd's Volvo 70 Telefonica Black will be making its first Squadron Line start for the RORC Season's Points Championship and on paper the pro-am crew have the fastest IRC rated boat. However, Racing in IRC Zero, the favourites for Line Honours must include the long-awaited debut for the Swedish CF-520 Rán 8. Niklas Zennström's Rán Racing team returns to offshore racing with the RORC with a stunning new design. RORC Commodore James Neville will be racing his HH42 INO XXX , a solid performance in the Myth of Malham will put INO XXX into the season lead for IRC Zero. VME Racing's CM60 Venomous is the largest boat in IRC Zero, skippered by James Gair.

IRC One

Jean-Eudes Renier & Rob Bottomley's MAT12 Sailplane and Michael O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood with a top Irish crew, will both be in action. Both teams are challenging for the season lead in class. Ed Bell's JPK 1180 Dawn Treader returns to racing in the UK after a great performance in the RORC Caribbean 600. In form teams in IRC One include Astrid de Vin's Dutch JPK 1180 Il Corvo, overall winner of the North Sea Race, and Derek Shakespeare's J/122 Bulldog, class winner for the de Guingand Bowl Race. Four British First 40s will be in action including Ronan Banim's Galahad Of Cowes, the London Corinthian Sailing Club's Tango and two entries from Hamble based race training school, Sailing Logic: Lancelot II and Arthur.

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Two top UK-based yachts expected to enter June's Round Ireland Race scored significant wins in the UK’s offshore season opener in a race across the English Channel on Saturday.

It's a weekend result that raises the stakes for overall honours in the biennial Irish ocean classic that gets underway in a little over six weeks' time with a quality fleet of more than 40.

The first race of the domestic season for the RORC Season’s Points Championship was a tricky light airs 100-mile dash across the English Channel to Le Havre. RORC Commodore James Neville, racing HH42 INO XXX was the standout performer scoring a hat-trick of wins: The Cervantes Trophy for first overall after IRC time correction, race line honours, and IRC Zero. 

The Cowes boat has declared for June 18s significantly longer 700-mile SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race and with the Cervantes Trophy in the bag, Neville is likely to be very much in contention for the Wicklow race that includes quality ISORA, RORC, Class 40 and Volvo 70 yachts.

Yet to enter the Round Ireland Race but sailing with a strong Irish crew for Saturday's fixture, Michael O'Donnell’s UK-based J/121 Darkwood was second overall and the winner of IRC One.

As Afloat reported previously, Dubliner O'Donnell was joined for the race to France by Irish offshore sailors Kenny Rumball, Michael Boyd, Barry Hurley, and Conor Kinsella.

The Cervantes Trophy Race is part of the 2022 RORC Season’s Points ChampionshipThe Cervantes Trophy Race is part of the 2022 RORC Season’s Points Championship Photo: Rick Tomlinson

The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier, skippered by Henry Foster was the winner of IRC Two.

Tim Goodhew & Kelvin Matthews racing Sun Fast 3200 Cora had a superb race, taking third overall, and winning IRC Three and IRC Two-Handed.

The Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British SoldierThe Army Sailing Association’s Sun Fast 3600 Fujitsu British Soldier Photo: Rick Tomlinson

“It was hard work getting out of the Solent in light shifty conditions,” commented James Neville. “Taking a more easterly line offshore worked well for us, staying in better pressure, and making sure we weren’t swept west on the tide. The crew did a great job concentrating in the cold air. The reaching conditions really suited our four-sail set with the Fro, jib, staysail and main all in the air.”

After the finish of the race RORC racing teams arriving at Société des Regatés du Havre, received nothing short of a spectacular welcome with a carnival atmosphere laid on by the oldest yacht club in France, including a dancing girls cabaret and a sumptuous dinner at the renowned restaurant.

The Cervantes Trophy Race is part of the 2022 RORC Season’s Points Championship, the world's largest offshore racing series comprising of 16 testing races. Every race has its own coveted prize for the overall winner and famous trophies for IRC class honours. The fifth race of the championship is the De Guingand Bowl Race, which is scheduled to start on Saturday 14th May from the Royal Yacht Squadron Line with an overnight race in the Solent and adjacent waters.

Additional race report by Louay Habib

Published in RORC
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Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC) Commodore James Neville has confirmed he will be back in Irish waters again this season and racing his Solent-based HH42 INO XXX in June's SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race.

As Afloat reported earlier, Neville and his crew embark on their first offshore since the 2021 Rolex Middle Sea Race this weekend at the season opener to France for the Cervantes Trophy.

RORC Commodore James Neville Photo: Courtesy RORCRORC Commodore James Neville at the Fastnet Rock Photo: Courtesy RORC

“We are excited to get back racing, it has been a long break, but we have had time to focus on this year,” Neville said. “We will compete in the RORC series including the Round Ireland Race and culminating inshore with the IRC Europeans in Breskens.

The Hudson/Hakes built 42’, a Judel/Vrolijk design, and took line honours and first place in the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race IRC One Class.

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A top UK-based offshore racer will race this weekend's Cervantes Trophy with a strong Irish crew, which will heighten prospects of a potent Round Ireland Race entry in June.

In a crew list seen by Afloat for Dubliner Michael O'Donnell's UK based J/121 Darkwood leading Irish offshore sailors Kenny Rumball, Michael Boyd, Barry Hurley, and Conor Kinsella are on board for Saturday's 160nm offshore race from the Royal Squadron Line in Cowes across the English Channel bound for Le Havre.

As Afloat reported earlier, over 50 teams are expected at the oldest yacht club in France, Société des Regatés du Havre on Sunday. The race is the traditional opening domestic race of the RORC Season’s Points Championship.

Although there is no entry received so far by Wicklow Sailing Club for Darkwood in the biennial Irish offshore race, Afloat sources say the same crew will also compete in June's RORC's Myth of Malham race before positioning to Ireland for the June 18 circumnavigation.

Michael O'Donnell's UK based J/121 DarkwoodMichael O'Donnell's J/121 Darkwood was the 2019 Royal Ocean Racing Club Channel Race winner Photo: Paul Wyeth/RORC

As previously reported, Royal Irish Yacht Club skipper Boyd leads the race for a Volvo Car prize in this year's edition of the SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, but only three points separate the top four skippers overall.

The prize was to be decided after the 2020 edition of the offshore classic, but that edition was cancelled due to COVID.

According to the race rules, the skipper who has accumulated the best overall points' results on corrected time over the three Round Irelands 2016, 2018 and 2020 will be presented with a brand new Volvo V40 or equivalent at the prizegiving for the 2022 Race.

As Afloat reported back in 2020, the current leaderboard shows Dublin Bay sailor Michael Boyd, a Round Ireland stalwart, who sailed the J109 Jedi in the 2018 race and the Beneteau 44.7 Lisa in 2016 on 16 points overall. Royal Cork skipper Ian Hickey on Cavatina is next on 19 points and shares the same points with Rob Craigie from the Sunfast3600 Bellino and 2019 ISORA Champion Paul O'Higgins, the skipper of the JPK10.80 Rockabill VI, also on 19 points. 

Published in Round Ireland

Bob Rendell's Grand Soleil 44 Samatom of Howth Yacht Club is the latest entry into June's SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race from Wicklow.

The 2021 Sovereign's Cup Coastal division winner - that also competed in last year's Dun Laoghaire to Dingle Race -  is the 13th entry of an expected fleet of 60 for the 700-miler starting on June 18th. 

Other recent entries into the Category Two offshore fixture include Irish former round the world yacht, the Volvo 70 Green Dragon skippered by Enda O'Coineen and Conor Ferguson.

Also entered for the circuit is the first of the doublehanded International Class 40s, the Round Italy winners Andrea Fornaro sailing with Round Ireland speed record holder Pamela Lee of Greystones Harbour.

See the entry list here

Published in Round Ireland

 The hard work of Wicklow Sailing Club's 2022 Round Ireland Race committee is bearing fruit with the early entry for this summer's race of the new Class40 yacht Influence by Italian skipper Andrea Fornaro.

The VPLP design is the first such Class40 into the race since the 700-miler Irish ocean classic was added to the Class40 International calendar, just one of 25 world-class offshore fixtures on the list.

It's a feather in the cap for organiser Kyran O'Grady who has added the former Irish Volvo 70 Green Dragon last week for the Wicklow startline on June 18. 

It may well be that O'Grady's pioneering efforts at the Paris Boat Show in December 2018 and again earlier last month are finding favour on the continent.

Class40 Italian skipper Andrea Fornado will race round IrelandClass40 Italian skipper Andrea Fornaro will race round Ireland

It brings the entry to 12 so far in a race where O'Grady expects over 60 boats given the cancellation of the 2020 edition due to COVID.

The accomplished Fornaro will have competed in April's RORC's Caribbean 600, and May's Normandy Channel Race before coming to Irish waters.

Fornaro is not the first Class40 to have completed the Irish course. As regular Afloat readers will recall, top Figaro sailor Nicolas Troussel in the Mach 40 Corum made a blistering start to the 2018 race

Class 40 is a monohull sailboat primarily used for short-handed offshore and coastal racing.

In other Round Ireland race entry news, French skipper Laurent Charmy has signed up the J111, SL Energies Groupe Fast Wave.

Published in Round Ireland
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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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