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West of Ireland community energy organisations say they believe Ireland can also benefit economically and socially from renewables while tackling climate change.

Representatives of the organisations intend to make this case at the Mary Robinson Climate Conference which opens in Ballina on Wednesday, June 5th.

Entitled “A Shared Response to a Shared Responsibility”, the conference will be opened by former president Mary Robinson in Ballina Arts Centre on Wednesday morning.

Representatives of three community organisations based on the west coast engaged in community initiated offshore wind projects will speak on Wednesday evening, along with a leading academic and representatives of an expert co-ordinating group specialising in community renewable hydrogen projects.

This panel involves Dr James Carton of Dublin City University, Colum O’Connell of Valentia Island Energy, Dara (Molloy) Ó Maoildhia of Comharchumann Fuinnimh Oileáin Árainn, Sabine Wandel of Achill Community Futures and Lúgh ó Braonáin of Energy Co-operatives Ireland.

They will outline:

  • The technical context of offshore energy: how would it be generated and what it could be used for;
  • The scale of the sustainability opportunity;
  • How west of Ireland communities can help drive this change and take hold of the social and economic benefits;
  • How, through innovation and new insights, a hitherto marginalised west coast can help define new concepts of social structures;
  • Potential benefits to the Irish State.

“Ireland is blessed with the marine resources to take a leading role in meeting this challenge,” the group states.

“ Some are suggesting that our seas can help decarbonise not just our own energy system, but also much of that of our European neighbours,”they say.

The group believes a "full scale sustainably managed offshore wind sector on the Irish west coast could radically alter the coastal social and economic landscape for the better” and could “shift our society to one where the communities of the west coast can drive a sustainable society into a better future”.

The group will address a 40-minute session in the Ballina Civic Offices (followed by a 20-minute audience discussion) between 5 pm and 6 pm on Wednesday, June 5th.

The full programme for the Mary Robinson Climate Conference 2024 is HERE

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Bord Gáis Energy and Corio Generation have announced a new partnership to explore opportunities to supply Ireland’s electricity market with green electricity from offshore wind. The agreement represents Bord Gáis Energy’s entry into the offshore wind arena and will play an important role in its ongoing commitment to expand its renewable energy portfolio. Corio, a leading global offshore wind developer with a global pipeline of more than 30 GW, is currently developing the 450 MW Sceirde Rocks wind farm off the west coast of Ireland.

The Bord Gáis Energy/Corio partnership say the move aligns with the government’s strategy to develop Ireland’s significant offshore wind resource, which will contribute to Ireland’s climate action targets and maximize the economic impact of future renewable energy use while also contributing to the security of supply and delivering balanced regional economic development.

Speaking ahead of the Energy Ireland Conference, which takes place in Croke Park this week, Dave Kirwan, Managing Director, Bord Gáis Energy, said: “At Bord Gáis Energy, we believe all energy can be green energy and that this can also improve Ireland’s energy security. This significant partnership with Corio will combine our power generation and route-to-market expertise, the financial backing of Centrica, and Corio Generation’s global experience in the development of offshore wind projects. For Bord Gáis Energy, today’s announcement is part of our wider strategic objective to energize a greener, fairer future in Ireland, offering end-to-end green energy solutions required for the transition to net zero.”

The Irish government has set a goal of generating 80% of electricity through renewables by 2030, including 5 GW from offshore wind. In March 2024, the Department of Energy, Climate and Communications published Ireland’s first-ever industrial strategy for offshore wind, with the aim of building a strong and resilient offshore wind supply chain to support the development of offshore wind projects in Ireland and abroad.

This was followed in May 2024 with two further announcements: a future framework document that outlined Ireland’s long-term approach to the growth of offshore wind generation, and a publication on potential areas of development (DMAPS) off the south coast of Ireland ahead of a planned auction round in late 2024.

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Four areas off the south Irish coast have been earmarked for offshore wind development by the Government, subject to a six-week public consultation.

The draft South Coast Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP), billed as Ireland’s first ever spatial plan for renewable energy at sea, was published by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan.

The draft design of the first offshore wind auction to take place in the South Coast DMAP after its adoption has also been published for consultation.

Deployment of fixed offshore wind (fixed-bottom turbines) may take place, subject to the outcome of a six-week public consultation, in the four areas identified as follows:

(1)Tonn Nua (New Wave) is situated off the coast of Co Waterford and encompasses a total marine area of 312.6km². The distance to shore varies from between 12.2km along the western boundary to 12.4km along the northern boundary.

Tonn Nua has a mean water depth of 57m, with a minimum water depth of 48m and a maximum water depth of 69m, giving an overall range of 21m. With a typical density of 4.5MW/km2, a 900MW development would use approximately 65% of the total marine space within Tonn Nua.

(2) Lí Ban (the Mermaid Saint) is situated off the coast of Co Waterford and has a total area of 486km², with distances to shore varying between 49km along the western boundary and 29km along the northern boundary. Lí Ban has a mean water depth of 71m with a minimum water depth of 66m and a maximum water depth of 76m, giving an overall range of 10m.

(3) Manannán (a sea god and divine lord of the Tuatha Dé Dannan) is situated off the south coast of Co Wexford and has a total area of 342km². The distance to shore varies between 52km along the western boundary and 27km along the northern boundary. Manannán has a mean water depth of 69 m with a minimum water depth of 64m and a maximum water depth of 72m, giving an overall range of 8m.

(4) Danú (mother of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Celtic goddess of nature) is situated off the south coast of Co Wexford and has a total area of 304km². The distance to shore varies between 52km along the western boundary and 27km along the northern boundary. Danu has a mean water depth of 67m with a minimum water depth of 55m and a maximum water depth of 78m, giving an overall range of 23m.

Submissions on the draft terms and conditions for the Tonn Nua offshore auction are requested by June 7th 2024, with the final auction design to be published in early July. The auction is planned to begin before the end of 2024,Ryan’s department says.

An independent economic analysis, published alongside the draft South Coast DMAP, highlights the “potential economic benefits associated with implementation of the plan, which could deliver inward investment of €4.4 billion and an estimated 49,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) years of employment to the Irish economy”, it says.

“The analysis further highlights that more than 65% of inward investment and employment opportunities could be captured by the south coast region,” it says.

“The draft South Coast DMAP is part of a plan-led approach to ensure that offshore renewable energy ( ORE) will only be located in areas off the south coast that are environmentally suitable for such development,” it says.

“Protecting the marine environment and biodiversity and supporting citizens reliant on the sea for their livelihood are central to the sustainable development of the south coast’s ORE potential,” it says.

“The four maritime areas proposed for ORE projects have been identified following a comprehensive environmental assessment process and an almost year-long engagement process with coastal communities and stakeholders, de-risking the DMAPs as much as possible,”it adds.

“This is a hugely significant milestone – the first time the State has developed a forward spatial plan for renewable energy at this scale,” Ryan said.

“Since taking office, it has been a priority of mine and this Government’s to overhaul the regulatory and legislative system so that we could get to this point. We can now plan to run an auction, and the winners can then proceed to deal with a brand-new purpose-developed regulator (MARA) before applying to An Bord Pleanála for development permission,” he said.

“What is also critical is that at all stages of its development, the draft South Coast DMAP has been informed and shaped by close co-operation with local communities and with consideration for all maritime activities, including fishing and seafood production and environmental protection. Now, I encourage people to engage again over the coming six weeks of further consultation,” he said.

“By 2030 and beyond, the development of offshore wind projects in the South Coast DMAP areas will bring enormous economic opportunities for coastal communities, in terms of jobs growth and local community development,”he said.

The draft South Coast DMAP and accompanying environmental assessments will now undergo a six-week statutory public consultation period.

To view the draft South Coast DMAP and for information on how to make a submission to the consultation see here 

The draft design of the first offshore wind auction to take place in the South Coast DMAP after its adoption has been published for consultation and can be viewed here

Published in Marine Planning
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The Government has published its “Future Framework for Offshore Renewable Energy” (ORE), which includes 29 key actions to develop the State’s plan-led approach to offshore wind.

A draft designated maritime area plan (DMAP) for the Irish south coast is due to be announced on Friday (May 3).

Described by Minister for Environment and Climate Eamon Ryan as “Ireland’s most exciting industrial opportunity for decades”, the “Future Framework” sets out the pathway Ireland will take to deliver 20GW of offshore wind by 2040 and at least 37GW in total by 2050.

“Critically, it also provides the evidence base for Ireland’s ambitious ORE targets,” Ryan’s department says.

The framework is one of the key actions published by the Government under the Offshore Wind Energy Programme, the system-wide plan developed by the Offshore Wind Delivery Taskforce.

“Ireland’s offshore wind programme is progressing to plan, meeting each of its three-phased objectives and timelines,”Ryan’s department says.

The framework includes 29 key actions and is built on an analysis of economic opportunities to encourage investment and “maximise the financial and economic return of offshore renewable energy to the State and local communities”.

It also explores “the potential to export excess renewable energy through increased interconnection”, and analyses “opportunities for using excess renewable energy for alternative energy products and services that can be fed into international markets”.

Ryan’s department says the “guiding principles of the policy” include “the protection of maritime environment and biodiversity, affordability of energy for consumers, an equitable return to communities, alignment of policy and infrastructure, inspiring confidence for investment, emphasising technological innovation, illuminating opportunities for return to the state and prioritising stakeholder and public engagement”.

Welcoming the framework, Ryan said: “Renewable energy projects are poised to revolutionise our economy, offering significant regional and national economic benefits while giving us more control over our energy sovereignty.”

“Our offshore wind energy is potentially the largest domestic source of electricity that can replace volatile, imported fossil fuels. It also gives us our most exciting industrial opportunity for decades as we plan to not only power our own country, but export our excess energy to power Europe,”he said.

“This is a dynamic, fast-paced and evolving landscape and we are setting out our Future Framework now so that we will be ready, along with our local communities and business partners, for the future of all potential offshore renewable energy sources, including fixed and floating wind, wave and tidal renewable energy,” he said.

“Going to our Atlantic Ocean is not something that can happen overnight. The technology needed to harness the Atlantic’s enormous potential is still being developed globally,” he said.

“But, this strategy provides our planned, evidenced-based approach to realising our energy potential, and we will ensure that Ireland’s west coast is on the cutting edge of this development,” he said.

The publication of the Future Framework for Offshore Renewable Energy follows a five-week period of public consultation that took place earlier this year.

The policy is available on the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications website.

An economic market analysis on the viability of ORE targets and potential export opportunities was carried out as part of the work to develop the framework.

The reports, which were produced by AFRY Managing Consultants and BVG Associates, focus on five areas: market analysis; interconnection; renewable hydrogen; export viability; and societal return, and are also available on the department website.

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Irish renewable energy developer Simply Blue has joined a North Sea consortium working on a commercial scale seaweed farm located within an offshore wind farm.

The “North Sea Farm 1 Project” involves ten hectares of water off the Netherlands coast, and is billed as the world’s first commercial scale operation of its type.

It aims to become operational this autumn when it will be deployed and seeded, with first harvest anticipated during Spring of 2025.

The project is sponsored by Amazon’s “Right Now” climate fund, and aims to help address climate action targets in Europe by “tapping into the vast, unmet potential of seaweed cultivation”.

Seaweed absorbs nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide and produces oxygen, and has been identified as part of the solution to climate change and ocean acidification.

It produces a valuable biomass with a wide range of uses from pharmaceuticals to animal feed to fertilisers.

The project is sponsored by Amazon’s “Right Now” climate fundThe project is sponsored by Amazon’s “Right Now” climate fund

Simply Blue Group says it has a keen interest in multiple use of wind farms, and believes that efficient use of sea space is key to working with the oceans on climate change bringing more local communities and supply chains into the transition to a low carbon economy.

“At Simply Blue Group, we want our marine projects to make a tangible difference, which is why we’re delighted to join this consortium,”Simply Blue chief executive and co-founder, said.

Eef Brouwers, project Manager of the North Sea Farm 1 initiative, welcomed Simply Blue’s involvement and said its expertise in aquaculture and offshore wind "will be valuable in the successful execution of seaweed production in an offshore wind farm for the first time”.

“The North Sea Farm 1 project aims to help the seaweed industry in scaling-up within offshore wind farms and Simply Blue Group’s capabilities in both areas make them an ideal partner,” Brouwers said.

North Sea Farmers (NSF) is an independent and not-for-profit sector organisation for the European seaweed industry. It has a member base of over 100 companies, pioneering start-ups, research institutes, NGOs and other stakeholders.

For North Sea Farm 1, NSF will head up a consortium of partner organisations extending across Europe and involved in the entire seaweed production supply chain.

This includes researchers Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Deltares and Silvestrum Climate Associates, seaweed extract manufacturers Algaia and maritime contractors Van Oord.

Listen to an Afloat podcast on how Seaweed Farming Can Feed The Globe and Capture Carbon

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Enterprise Ireland will host the third Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum in Croke Park next Tuesday (28 November), featuring an address from Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment.

This one-day knowledge and networking event will convene the Irish offshore wind supply chain with industry stakeholders from across the Irish, UK and global offshore wind markets.

The forum will include updates on both the Irish and UK offshore wind markets, with key contributions from project developers and industry experts.

It will assess the timelines, opportunities and challenges facing the offshore wind industry and will examine how the supply chain can help facilitate continued growth.

While the main focus is on Ireland and the UK, attendees will also receive updates from European markets, including France, Germany and Italy.

Attendees will also hear from EirGrid on their supply chain support needs, and the forum will take a look at the Irish technology and innovation that is working to advance floating offshore wind.

See the full forum agenda and register to attend via the Enterprise Ireland website.

Published in Power From the Sea

An indicative “road map” towards the State’s next offshore wind auction has been published by the Government.

The timeline relates to “ORESS 2.1”, which will take place off Ireland’s south coast and provide for up to 900MW of offshore wind.

Public consultation is already taking place on a draft Designated Maritime Area Plan (DMAP), within the marine waters off the south coast, aiming to “determine the appropriate location for the auction site off the south coast”.

Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan has welcomed the publication by the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) of long-range plans by its members, including Ireland, towards the development of offshore wind up to 2040.

The plans put forward “indicative auction timelines” for offshore wind auctions across all nine NSEC member states up to 2030, which includes their potential construction window up to 2040.

“The published database also includes Ireland’s indicative plans to meet its 2040 target of 20GW of offshore wind through competitive processes in the period up to 2030, with related construction taking place up to 2040,” Ryan’s department says.

In September 2022, at the NSEC Ministerial Meeting hosted in Dublin, nine NSEC countries agreed to reach at least 260GW of offshore wind energy by 2050.

“The target highlighted a significant increase in the collective ambition of NSECs members. It represented more than 85% of the EU-wide ambition of reaching 300GW by 2050, as set out in the EU strategy for offshore renewable energy,” the Department of Environment says.

The 2050 NSEC ambitions are complemented with intermediate targets of at least 76 GW by 2030 and 193 GW by 2040, of which Ireland will contribute 5GW and 20GW, respectively.

“The success of Ireland’s first offshore wind auction earlier this year highlighted Ireland’s enormous potential in offshore wind,” Ryan, who attended an NSEC meeting in The Hague, says.

“ORESS 2.1 will be another important milestone towards the delivery of our offshore wind ambitions and to reach our climate targets,” he said.

“Our ambitions in the area will be further supported by the publication next year of Ireland’s Industrial Strategy for Offshore Wind by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, and the Future Framework for post-2030 Offshore Wind, by the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications,” he said.

The NSEC is a regional non-binding and voluntary EU cooperation framework which aims to advance development of offshore renewable energy in the geographical area of the North Seas, including the Irish and Celtic Seas.

The NSEC is based on a political declaration adopted in 2016, and members are Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the European Commission.

Indicative roadmap towards the State’s next offshore wind auction

Indicative roadmap towards the State’s next offshore wind auction

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If Government targets on offshore wind are met by 2050, Ireland’s seas will have turbines stretching for at least twice the length of Ireland, according to calculations by a group of seafood organisations.

A submission to the Department of Environment by the group says that it welcomes the “plan-led” approach to future (phase 2) offshore renewable energy (ORE).

However, it says there is “deepening unease” within their sector about lack of consultation and “spatial squeeze”.

The group warns that Ireland cannot afford to repeat “planning mistakes of the past”, as occurred with the Corrib gas project in north Mayo.

Eight seafood organisations, representing catching, fish-farming, processing, and inshore sectors, made the submission to the department as part of public consultation over draft maritime area plans (DMAP) for the Irish south coast.

The draft “DMAP” outlining an area for ORE was published by the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) in mid-July, and involves development of up to 900 megawatts ( MW ) offshore renewable capacity.

The current Government programme is to provide an overall 5 (five) gigawatts (GW) off the Irish coast by 2030.

The seafood group queries how much ORE development is planned in total off the south coast, given references to “further programmes”. It also asks whether ORE will be permitted within the footprint of marine protected areas (MPAs).

The group says it has calculated that the Government’s 2050 target of at least 37 GW of offshore wind will translate into a wind farm (or farms) covering an area of some 12,333 km2.

Assuming that the development is six nautical miles (11.1 km) wide, a single farm of 37GW would stretch, continuously, for some 1,110 km, the submission claims.

This would represent over twice the length of Ireland, which is approximately 500 km in length, it says.

The eight organisations welcome the principle of lower carbon emissions as part of a commitment to tackle climate change, and state that seafood is a “low carbon, healthy, and sustainable part of our food supply”.

However, they say that the current developer-led approach in phase one windfarm projects - which have already been given maritime consents and grid contracts off the east and west coasts - has the potential to result in “bitter planning hearings and mounting local resistance” due to a “poorly structured, often opaque approach”.

It calls for a risk-based assessment of potential impacts of ORE, which should include measuring impact of electromagnetic fields generated by inter-array cables; navigational hazards; insurance factors; and impact of noise on marine life during installation and operation.

The submission says that the seafood industry believes that “it is possible to reduce considerably the impact of offshore renewables on fishing if we opt for better planning, design and through the implementation/build process.

The State should “openly address the cumulative impact on fishing of all aspects of spatial squeeze” and incorporate “appropriate” mitigation measures to minimise impacts on fishing businesses and communities”.

Speaking at the launch of the joint submission, John Lynch, CEO of the Irish South and East Fish Producers Organisation said “Ireland’s seafood industry recognises that an orderly development of offshore wind is critical to the future relationship between the seafood and offshore renewable industries. And that relationship is essential if the state is going to meet it targets for ORE development”.

Sean O’Donoghue, CEO of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, also welcomed the move to a state-managed and plan-led approach but added that the true test would be whether the Minister and Department for the Environment, Climate and Communicatons (DECC) accepted the recommendatons made in the seafood industry submission.

The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications said it “welcomes the submission by the representative organisations of the Irish seafood industry to the recent public consultation on the establishment by Government of the south coast DMAP for offshore renewable energy”.

“It highlights the strong support of Ireland’s fishing industry for the decision by Government that future offshore renewable energy developments in Ireland will take place according to a plan-led regime, through the establishment of DMAPs, including an initial South Coast DMAP,”it said.

“Crucially, the process to establish all DMAPs will provide comprehensive opportunities for public participation to ensure that future offshore renewable energy development takes place with the support of local communities and in consideration for other marine activities, including fishing. The Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications is keenly aware of crucial role of fishing, aquaculture and seafood production in supporting economic activity and employment for many Irish coastal communities,” it said.

“The Department is therefore committed to ensuring that constructive and comprehensive engagement with fishers continues to take place throughout the process to establish all DMAPs, including the South Coast DMAP. Facilitating co-existence and shared marine space between different marine users, including fishers, with offshore renewables is a further key objective of the process to establish DMAPs,” it said.

It said that “beyond 2030, the location and size of all future offshore wind developments will be determined by the establishment of DMAPs, which will take place in cooperation with all key stakeholders, crucially including the fishing and seafood sector”.

“It is important to note that the size of offshore wind developments, including the number of offshore wind turbines, required to meet Ireland’s decarbonisation targets will also be determined by technological advances, which has in recent years led to a substantial increase in the volume of green energy that a single turbine can produce,” the department said.

“This has had a corresponding reduction on the marine space required to generate a given level of green power, and this trend is continuing with offshore wind farms currently under construction,” it said.

Signatories to the seafood group submission on the south coast DMAP include IFA Aquaculture, the Irish Fish Processors and Exporters’ Association, the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish South and West Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Irish Fish Producers’ Organisation, the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation, the National Inshore Fishermen’s Association and the South East Regional Inshore Fisherman's Forum.

Published in Marine Planning
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The British Labour Party has promised to fast-track infrastructure such as wind turbines, pylons and solar farms through the planning system and to protect developers from legal challenges.

The Labour Party has promised British voters it will pledge to protect significant infrastructure from “vexatious” legal action by offering clearer guidance to developers, and will offer local communities “sweeteners” such as cheaper energy for accepting wind turbines in their area.

As The Times newspaper reports, the Labour Party has said it will initiate a review of national planning statements to ensure that priorities like net zero and economic growth play a key role in decisions.

Shadow chancellor of the exchequer Rachel Reeves says cheaper energy will be offered as “sweeteners” to local communities closest to offshore and onshore renewable projects

She has promised that a Labour government will overhaul Britain’s “antiquated” planning system.

“If the Tories won’t build, if the Tories can’t build, then we will. Taking head-on the obstacles presented by our antiquated planning system,” she has said.

“We will set clear objectives, hardwiring national priorities like economic growth and net zero into the planning system, as is done in Germany,” her party has said.

Read more in The Times here (subscription required)

Published in Power From the Sea

Industry leaders and policy makers discussed the “pivotal role” that Ireland can play in the EU’s transition to a greener future during a conference this week in the European Parliament.

"Powering up Europe: Ireland's offshore wind potential” was the title of the event, streamed online, which Ireland South MEP Sean Kelly hosted in partnership with wind generating company SSE.

"The EU is currently undergoing an ambitious systemic change in how we produce, consume and store energy. Although this will mean fundamental changes for Ireland, we also have the opportunity to be at the very heart of Europe’s energy transition,” Kelly said.

"Ireland's extensive coastline and strong winds present us with a unique advantage in harnessing clean and renewable energy sources. By scaling up our offshore wind capacity, we can not only contribute substantially to our domestic energy needs but also play a pivotal role in helping the EU meet its ambitious climate and energy targets,” he said.

However, Kelly said there was also a need for expediency.

“ We still face major barriers to getting projects to the generation phase, most notably the extensive time taken for projects to get approved. This must be addressed immediately if we are to stay on track. This means simply more skilled personnel and more resources to planning authorities so that we can reduce the unnecessary significant delays,” he said.

SSE chief executive officer Alistair Phillips-Davies said the discussion in the European Parliament highlighted that “with the right policies and infrastructure in place delivered through cooperation across the EU and through the North Seas Energy Cooperation (NSEC) initiative, Ireland can become an offshore wind hub, powering Europe’s energy and climate goals”.

Speakers at the event included Ambassador Barbara Cullinane – Ireland; Stefano Grassi – Head of Cabinet of Commissioner Simson; SSE chief executive Alistair Phillips-Davies; Sonya Twohig – Secretary General ENTSO-E; and Kristian Ruby – Secretary General Eurelectric.

The conference can be viewed below

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