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Lee Maginnis notes the 200th anniversary of the great granite Haulbowline Lighthouse on the County Louth coast will be in 2024

Haulbowline Lighthouse, that feat of granite engineering sitting on a wave-washed rock in the mouth of Carlingford Lough. Northern Ireland on one side, the Republic of Ireland on the other. Not that the nesting Cormorants on the window ledges know or care.

There was another lighthouse on Cranfield Point; it became a victim of the erosion going on a lot longer than many care to admit. But the old light had already been replaced by the time it fell into the sea.

It had been in the wrong place. Invisible to ships in the West and not marking the dangerous rocks at the mouth of the lough. George Haplin designed and built Haulbowline in 1824.

That makes the remarkable Haulbowline nearly 200 years old. Remarkable. Sitting out there on a rock that can rarely be seen. Battered by the waves. Strong currents racing past the base.

The tower was white until 1946. Now it is back to its natural stone.

Many other features have long gone. It seems a pity to many that they were not retained. The metal ball hoisted and lowered to indicate the tide level. The half-tide lantern displayed on the seaward side, halfway up. The red turning light. Explosive fog signals...

On 17 March 1965, Haulbowline had the dubious honour of becoming the first Irish major offshore light to be fully automated and remotely monitored and controlled from shore. The dataphonic system installed sent pre-recorded voice messages ashore by telephone about the status of the light and equipment. This was the beginning of the end of the lighthouse keeper.

Haulbowline in the past. Photographer unknownHaulbowline in the past. Photographer unknown

The fog signal sounded, and the light flashed if visibility was poor, day or night, back then.

The light still flashes three times every ten seconds. Still from a height of 32 metres in a tower 34 metres tall. But it is an LED now, range down to 10 nautical miles.

The fog signal is gone. It is missed by many.

Generators are no longer heard humming; now, a solar panel charges the batteries that provide power during the night.

Thankfully Haulbowline is still there and is listed. It is active. A monument to the past, but still capable of stirring up a strong sense of adventure and mystery today as it guides ships and guards the mouth of Carlingford Lough.

Kiwi Lee Maginnis lives in the countryside of Northern Ireland likes the outdoors, wildlife and sport. He has a keen interest in the sea and the environment. 

Published in Lighthouses

The summer season sees Carlingford Lough Ferry kicking off with the launch of its passenger 'cruise' schedule.

As Dundalk Democrat writes, last week dates were released for their June Sunset cruises, which commences this Saturday June 12th and tickets are already being snapped up.

Carlingford Lough is an area of outstanding natural beauty, and is at its most beautiful as the sun sets over the Cooley Peninsula and the majestic Mourne Mountains.

These new sunset lough cruises are specifically designed to offer customers the opportunity to take a safe and socially distanced cruise on the iconic Carlingford Lough.

While onboard (Aisling Gabrielle), passengers will enjoy a fascinating audio tour, that will offer insights into the myths and legends of this majestic Lough, its formation as a glacial fjord, and its abundance of wildlife and bird life, in addition to live music and entertainment.

Carlingford Lough Ferry launched it’s passenger cruise service, ‘Carlingford Lough Cruises’ in 2019, and these passenger cruises on the Lough have since proved extremely popular with the number of cruises increasing annually.

This summer, they are extending their range of cruises once again and offering a host of new cruise experiences.

Their popular Lough & Lighthouse cruises return throughout July and August, with June featuring a new Sunset inner Lough cruise to start the summer season of cruises.

For more details on other themed cruises and prices click here.

Published in Ferry

Valentia Island Lighthouse has announced the launch of a new visitor experience, ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ and the re-opening for the 2021 season.

‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ will deliver a whole new experience to the visitors, a journey through time and history, featuring the bronze age standing stone, the 17th century well preserved Cromwellian fort, the Lightkeeper’s House with a 1920’s feel, and the Lighthouse Tower with fantastic 360-degree views of the area and across the Atlantic Ocean. The visitors will learn about how life was for people living on the edge of Europe and in particular what was like for a lightkeeper to live at the Lighthouse with his family. The rich history of the area is also presented at the Lighthouse from early Christianity until modern days. There is also a new Eco-room that displays information about marine life in the area and raises awareness about our seas. The new Interpretation project covers a vast spectrum of information and it is very appealing for visitors with different areas of interest.

The Lighthouse Project is managed by Valentia Island Development Company, a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island.

The Lighthouse Project is managed by a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island The Lighthouse Project is managed by a community group established by volunteers from Valentia Island

Speaking about the new visitor experience, Lucian Horvat, Manager at Valentia Island Lighthouse said:

“Despite these unprecedented times, the Lighthouse Committee and Management were determined to deliver the project in time for the return of domestic tourism in line with Government guidelines. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Fáilte Ireland for their vital support and guidance, the South Kerry Development Partnership who have supported us since Valentia Island Lighthouse opened to the public in 2013, the Great Lighthouses of Ireland group, an initiative of Irish Lights, and Mirador Media who worked around the clock to implement our vision for the historical site at Valentia Island Lighthouse. ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ is a great example of collaboration between agencies, stakeholders and local community groups.”

The ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ visitor experience was developed through Fáilte Ireland’s ‘New Horizons on the Wild Atlantic Way’ Grants Scheme. Wild Atlantic Way Manager at Fáilte Ireland, Josephine O’Driscoll, said: “The Visitor Experience Development Plan for the Skelligs Coast, which was developed in consultation with local stakeholders, tourism businesses and the community, identified a number of development projects to bring local experiences along the Skellig Coast to life to help drive and sustain tourism in the area. Following the launch of the plan, we invested in a number of projects including €120,000 in the development of ‘Leading Lights at Cromwell Point’ at Valentia Island Lighthouse and it is fantastic to see the project come to fruition just in time for the summer season. Innovative visitor experiences such as this are hugely important in attracting visitors and encouraging them to stay longer in the area and will be critical as we look towards the recovery of the tourism sector.”

Brian Morgan – Director VIDC and Lighthouse Committee Chairperson said: “Best wishes to Lucian and our team on the re-opening of the Lighthouse for the season 2021. Tremendous work has been done to create a new experience at the lighthouse. The visitor will see for themselves what life must have been like for the lighthouse keeper and his family, to live in such an isolated place under harsh conditions. The new and improved visitor attraction is looking forward to welcoming even more visitors this year.”

Published in Lighthouses
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An abandoned lighthouse on the largest Aran island off Galway bay is for sale for over half a million euros.

As Times.ie reports today, the lighthouse and ruined buildings command a view of the Atlantic from the island’s highest point.

The site owned by an Aran island resident on about five acres takes its name from and is close to one of Inis Mór’s ring forts, Dún Eochalla.

Dún Eochalla was constructed with an inner stone fort and outer rampart, as one of a series of ring forts on the island – the best known being Dun Aonghasa.

The lighthouse several fields away has been advertised with a guide price of 550,000 euro.

It was constructed from about 1810, using island limestone, and took eight years to build.

The structure rose to 144 metres above sea level, and was visible from counties Galway, Clare, Mayo, Limerick and Kerry

It was decommissioned in 1857, however, as its use as a navigational aid was too limited. There were complaints that its beam could not be seen by shipping in heavy fog.

The residential quarters, now also in ruin, were built for lightkeepers and their families, who used to be stationed at lighthouses from the mid 19th century.

Joe Greaney of Keane Mahony Smith auctioneers in Galway said the property had potential as a “recreation project” for an investor with sufficient funds. It was used for a time as a museum, he said.

Read more at Times.ie here

Published in Island News
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Young authors have contributed to a new book published by The Commissioners of Irish Lights (CIL) which aims to benefit two charities.

The organisation’s Young Storykeepers’ Project has put together The Lighthouse Storybook, a collection of stories written by young children. 

The project was developed through the tourism and community partnership, Great Lighthouses of Ireland, and creative writing organisation Fighting Words and captured over 1250 stories by children between seven and 12 years old. 

All proceeds from the sale of The Lighthouse Storybook will directly support the work of Children in Hospital Ireland and the Northern Ireland Hospice, CIL says.

CIL chief executive Yvonne Shields O’Connor praised “this wonderful storybook, which is a selection from many original stories, poems and illustrations that were submitted by young writers aged 7–12 years from every corner of the island of Ireland and beyond” 

“For hundreds of years, lighthouses have kept seafarers safe, helping them find their way with a guiding light and safe journey,”she said, and it was fitting that sales of the book would “support wonderful organisations who help children navigate through their time in hospital.” 

Children in Hospital Ireland is a non-profit organisation committed to promoting and ensuring the welfare of all children in hospital, and Northern Ireland Hospice offers specialist respite, symptom management and end of life palliative care to children and adults each year across Northern Ireland.

Fighting Words was co-founded by Roddy Doyle and Seán Love in 2009 to help children and young people – along with adults who did not have this opportunity as children- to “discover and harness the power of their own imaginations and creative writing skills”.

People wishing to purchase the book can visit here

Published in Lighthouses
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The Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse, made famous for being the nearest point of land (11 miles/18 km) to where the RMS Lusitania was sunk in 1915, was open to the public this weekend writes Bob Bateman.

Under the supervision of a lighthouse keeper, visitors were treated to tours of the 100-foot lighthouse that boasts beautiful panoramic views of one of the country’s most scenic peninsulas, which is a highlight for visitors.

old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2

A shuttle bus service brought members of the public to and from the Old Head of Kinsale Signal Tower.

The 200-year-old Signal Tower at the Old Head has been restored to its former glory and is officially open to the public as a Lusitania Museum. The Museum exhibits artefacts recovered from the wreckage of the ship on the top floor.

The bottom floor of the narrow tower hosts an exhibition on the history of the tower itself.

old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2(Above and below) The tower height is 30 metres (98 ft)old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2 The lighthouse is painted white with black horizontal bands

old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2The lighthouse building is a cylindrical tower with a balcony and lanternold head of Kinsale Lighthouse2The Old Head of Kinsale Lighthouse is the nearest point of land (11 miles/18 km) to where the RMS Lusitania was sunkold head of Kinsale Lighthouse2The range of the light is 20 nautical milesold head of Kinsale Lighthouse2old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2The Old Head of Kinsale is popular with golfers who come to play on its 18-hole golf course that opened in 1997old head of Kinsale Lighthouse2

Published in Lighthouses
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The world’s oldest original operational lighthouse at Hook Head has been developing a series of unusual events. To mark the “beginning of Spring” it celebrates Ireland’s ‘Fire Goddess', by staging the first Imbolc Festival to be celebrated at the 800-year-old lighthouse.

Now it has announced that it will host another unusual event this Good Friday - a Sunset Tour Experience.

Jutting out to sea at the tip of the Hook Peninsula on the corner of Ireland’s Ancient East, there is, the Hook Head Lighthouse people say “no better place to take in the vast seascapes and glorious colours of Ireland’s Celtic Sea.”

They are not short of words or ideas at Hook!

The Sunset Tour Experience will offer visitors the opportunity to take a guided tour up the 115 well-worn steps of the medieval tower and see its heritage come to life as they meet life-sized figures of the Monk who first kept a beacon alight at the site in the 5th century followed by the Knight who built the tower, William Marshal and hear of life as a light-keeper before stepping on to the top floor outdoor balcony to take in the 360degree sweeping views of the Southeast of Ireland as the sun goes down.

“Tours culminate with the spectacular panoramic views of the rolling seas stretching out while visitors savour Irish mead, prosecco, fresh tea and coffee along with Ballyhack smokehouse smoked salmon on homemade brown bread, a selection of homemade canapés and homemade mini desserts in the private lighthouse watch-room and balcony,” according to the announcement.

The Sunset Tours Experience is available by advance booking only. Tickets are €45.00 per person and the organisers say this is an “adult only experience.” Tickets can be booked online at www.hookheritage.ie or by calling 051 397055.

Free facilities at Hook Lighthouse in County Wexford include parking, toilets, garden picnic areas and Wifi.

Published in Lighthouses
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The Fastnet Rock and its lighthouse – the most southerly part of Ireland - make up one of the best-recognised maritime structures in the world writes W M Nixon. Symbol, icon, emblem, signpost of the ocean – you name it, the Fastnet is all of these things. And the slender, beautifully-engineered lighthouse itself is central to the rock’s significance.

Since 1904 – after several previous attempts at placing a light on the rock - the glow of its beam has been moving every night along the glorious coast of West Cork. It is a familiar and much-loved part of that unique region’s heritage. It is impossible to imagine the area without it. And not surprisingly, many people want it to stay totally as it is, an unchanging constant in a changing world, a part of their lives as it was part of their parents’ and grandparents’ world before them

Yet with technology always advancing, inevitably the power source for the Fastnet Rock was becoming long out-dated, and increasingly costly to run. At the Irish Lights base in Dun Laoghaire, a new LED bulb has been developed which will provide a light in a much more economical way. 

Yet if the new system is introduced, while it will still be a very powerful light, it will be one third less powerful than the present antiquated system. Naturally it is causing concern in West Cork. The Irish Times has the story here

Published in West Cork
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The Irish Lights issued a statement about the South Arklow Lightship that didn’t tell the full story.

Their official explanation that it was missing off station was that it had “disappeared.”

In reality it had been sunk!

Dr. Michael Kennedy of the Royal Irish Academy, who is also Executive Editor of ‘Documents on Irish Foreign Policy’, had a remarkable story to tell when he referred to the “Irish amnesiac condition” which has ignored the importance of the sea around our nation. His example, which has left a strong impression on me, is that the history of the First World War focusses strongly on the big land battles in Europe – but Ireland, the Irish coastline and seafarers were on the front line of that war… as were the men of the South Arklow Lightship.

He told me the story, which hasn’t had a lot of public attention, at a maritime history conference in University College, Cork.

Listen to Dr. Kennedy on the Podcast here and also to a tragic story about 338 sailors lost off Bloody Foreland and the rescue by RNLI of a team playing football.

• Tom MacSweeney presents THIS ISLAND NATION radio programme on local stations around Ireland

Published in Tom MacSweeney

A record number of people visited Loop Head Lighthouse on the Shannon Estuary in County Clare during 2016.

Figures from Clare County Council show that 27,274 people visited the lighthouse during the opening period up to Sunday 2 October compared to 27,010 during the same period in 2015.

The increase in visitors represents the fifth successive annual increase in visitor numbers at the West Clare landmark.

Clare County Council, which manages the Lighthouse in conjunction with the Commissioner of Irish Lights (CIL), first opened the popular visitor attraction to the public in 2011.

Loop Head Lighthouse, which is steeped in history and rich in maritime heritage with its origins dating back to the 1670s, is a landmark location on the Loop Head Heritage Trail. It is also one of two Signature Discovery Points in County Clare along the route of the Wild Atlantic Way and is one of 12 Great Lighthouses of Ireland that won a Silver award this week at the Responsible Tourism Awards

Published in Lighthouses
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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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