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North Galway Windfarm Project Proposed Geotechnical Survey Raises Concerns Among Inshore Fleet

15th April 2023
Location of the Sceirde Rocks Offshore Wind Farm area, the Foreshore Lease area and the Foreshore Licence area
Location of the Sceirde Rocks Offshore Wind Farm area, the Foreshore Lease area and the Foreshore Licence area Credit: Sceirde Rocks Offshore Wind Farm

Inshore fishermen working grounds in Galway Bay have expressed concern about the impact of geotechnical works for one of the Irish west coast’s first offshore wind farms.

The Sceirde Rocks fixed bottom offshore wind farm in north Galway Bay is a proposed 450 MW output project, which is one of seven “phase one” wind farms.

The seven projects – six in the Irish Sea and Sceirdre Rocks on the west coast - received marine area consents (MACs) from Minister for Environment and Climate Action Eamon Ryan in December 2022.

Projects which have been granted a MAC are permitted to apply for development permission and secure a route to market within set timeframes.

The seven phase one projects can also participate in the Irish government’s offshore renewable energy support scheme 1, as in the first auction for offshore wind under Ireland’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS).

The Sceirde Rocks project, or Fuinneamh Sceirde Teoranta, was an Irish project which was acquired by the Green Investment Group (GIG) in September 2021.

It is now managed by Corio Generation, which was established as a specialist offshore wind business by GIG in April 2022.

The Sceirde wind farm is being developed as a joint venture with the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, with a target completion date of 2030.

The project developers compensated local fishermen in the Carna, Ballyconneely and Roundstone areas for a geophysical survey last year, although one local fisherman sought a court order to ensure his fishing was not interfered with.

The project now wants to undertake geotechnical surveys, and Connemara fishermen are concerned about the impact of what they describe as more invasive work on fish stocks, in addition to disruption to fishing activity.

They say they have been told the geotechnical survey work would require 500m exclusion zones to accommodate jack-up drilling gear.

The area around the Sceirde Rocks in north Galway Bay is known as a prime lobster ground. Conservation of lobsters through v-notching has been actively supported.

Public consultation closed in late February for foreshore license applications lodged by the company in relation to site investigation activities for the wind farm array area.

The company says the aim of the site investigations is to determine geotechnical, geophysical, met ocean, wind resource and benthic characteristics.

The company is also seeking a foreshore license for investigations relating to the required offshore export cable route for the wind farm.

In its application it says that there are two potential offshore export cable corridors – one making a landfall in Galway Bay, and the second making a landfall further south along the coast near Milltown Malbay and Doonbeg in Co Clare.

It says following confirmation of the Sceirde Rocks offshore wind farm grid connection point, it intends to survey only one chosen export cable corridor.

"However, it is possible that each type of site investigation may be undertaken simultaneously (along both cable corridors)," it says.

The company says it has been consulting with local fishermen, and will continue to do so. The foreshore license applications are with the Department of Housing, which handles MACs.

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Search and Rescue: True stories of Irish Air-Sea Rescues and the Loss of R116 (2022); Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004); and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010). She is also co-producer with Sarah Blake of the Doc on One "Miracle in Galway Bay" which recently won a Celtic Media Award

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Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

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