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Offshore wind

Offshore wind

Offshore wind

This report considers the growing renewable energy demand in Ireland, the various technology options to meet this demand, and where and how offshore wind can be a key part of the solution.

Electricity demand growth

Ireland is expected to experience strong, sustained growth in electricity demand between now and 2030. In an analysis of various future energy scenarios, EirGrid estimated that Ireland’s total electricity requirement will increase by between 22% and 53% by 2030. Key drivers of this growth in demand are expected to include:

Economic Growth: Significant economic growth is forecast generally, as well as specific growth in high energy industries, such as data centres and electric vehicles; and

FDI: Energy is increasingly being seen as a key criterion in attracting foreign direct investment and encouraging multinational companies to locate operations in a country.

Challenges in meeting this demand

This increased demand must come from renewable sources in order to satisfy both national and EU targets, as well as CSR agendas of large corporates and FDI.

Ireland has set a target that 40% of all electricity comes from renewable sources by 2020, rising to at least 55% by 2030, with many industry participants encouraging 75% by 2030.

The EU has also set a separate target that 16% of all energy is to come from renewable energy sources by 2020, rising to 32% by 2030.

SEAI analysis suggests Ireland will miss this 16% target, with the current trajectory suggesting it will only achieve 13% by 2020, which will likely result in EU fines.

The essential role of offshore wind

Meeting the future renewable electricity demand, while also meeting EU renewable targets, will require Ireland to deploy between 400MW – 700MW of new renewable generation capacity per year, against a historic onshore wind deployment rate of c.200MW per year.

While solar and onshore wind can and will play a role, offshore wind is the only technology with the scale and deployment capacity to meet this demand in full.

Dramatic reductions in technology prices and improved performance now mean that offshore wind costs a fraction of historic pricing, with a trajectory to hit parity with other technologies in the short to medium term.

Offshore wind – economic and social benefits

Ireland is the only European Union country with an Atlantic coastline which is not developing its offshore resource. Not only is this placing Ireland at an economic and competitive disadvantage, Ireland is missing out on a large number of associated economic and social benefits, including:

  • Providing significant volumes of renewable power relative to other technologies, which can meaningfully impact on our renewable energy targets;
  • It has been found in the UK economy that per 1,000MW installed, an economic boost of €2bn is expected. The development of existing projects which have up to 4,000MW potential capacity would result in significant economic impact to the Irish economy;
  • Delivering significant employment, estimated at 20,000 new jobs (including onshore) by 2040, as well as very substantial additional investment according to SEAI;
  • Contribute, through the development of both fixed and floating wind projects, to the economic revitalisation of coastal areas, including the coastline of the west of Ireland whose sea basin is suitable for such development;
  • Enhancing Ireland’s security of energy supply, which is increasingly topical given Brexit considerations;
  • Assist Ireland in meeting its commitment to the electrification of its transport system, which will not be possible without the volume of renewable power which the offshore industry can deliver;
  • Deployment of large-scale MWs close to the load centre (Dublin) would improve grid optimisation and reduce transmission costs;
  • Providing additional volumes of renewable power necessary to attract new foreign direct investment and to support the development of energy intensive industries; and
  • The location of turbines many kilometres out to sea has a low level of visual impact and virtually no noise impact on communities.

Immediate impact

There is a strong pipeline of offshore wind projects in the Irish sea. With clear Government support, these projects could deliver c.1,000MW of capacity in the immediate future that could help mitigate the 2020 fines. There is an additional c.3,000MW that could be delivered between 2020 – 2030.

Long term impact

With appropriate policy support, Ireland can become an industry leader in the emerging area of floating wind, which is a particular technology where the western seaboard can experience significant benefit due to the nature of the sea basin and the large scale of the natural resource.

In addition, once Ireland has achieved its targets for domestic renewable energy supply, there are significant opportunities in relation to interconnection and export. Such interconnection will support a higher penetration of renewable power onto the Irish grid and enable future exports.

Policy recommendations

In order to facilitate development of the Irish offshore wind industry and stimulate the required private sector investment, specific Government policy support is required.

To ensure joined up work and action, it is proposed that the Government forms an Offshore Wind Development Committee on the model of the IFSC, where the Department of the Taoiseach plays a lead role, to bring together representatives of the relevant Government Departments and State Agencies and industry representatives, with a remit to oversee the work necessary to develop the offshore wind industry.

Based on consultation with key industry participants, this report recommends the following policy initiatives:

  • The Government should develop a targeted policy for the development of the Irish offshore wind industry;
  • Inclusion of technology-specific support for offshore wind within the proposed renewable electricity support scheme (“RESS”);
  • Issue foreshore leases under the current Foreshore Act to enable Irish Sea projects to commence development in the immediate term, and introduce a Foreshore Amendment Act dealing with offshore wind; and Implement a specific offshore wind grid connection round for Irish Sea projects.

These policies would facilitate existing projects and provide a stimulus to the industry for future projects, enabling immediate investment and activity in the sector. All of the suggested policies can be implemented in the short term.