The energy provider SSE Renewables has started developing two offshore wind farms off the coast of Ireland, which are intended to attract an investment of up to €4 billion.
SSE has sought foreshore licences to conduct feasibility studies in the Irish Sea off Braymore Point in County Dublin and off Bannow Bay in County Wexford in the southeast.
Approximately 25km offshore in the Celtic Sea, the water depths potentially make the site suitable for the deployment of floating-wind technology, using techniques pioneered by the Hywind project off the northeast coast of Scotland.
The company said the two projects could eventually generate 1.6 gigawatts of wind energy each year, enough for more than 1 million homes and push Ireland towards its environmental commitments under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
SSE Renewables is the largest developer of offshore wind energy in the UK and Ireland, with 3.3GW of consented projects around the two islands.
The firm said it hoped to acquire the foreshore licences by late August. It said it expected the geophysical, geotechnical and environmental surveys to take up to three months and three years of wind and wave tests. SSE refused to predict when generation would begin.
The two sites were chosen following a phased site selection process which included regional resource and constraints analysis and an assessment of renewable capacity requirements, SSE said.
Preliminary shipping and navigation assessments had been undertaken to ensure any navigational risks were fully understood, should the proposed areas be taken forward for development. The studies had informed the position, size and shape of each of the surveyed areas, the firm added.
SSE also proposes to invest up to €2 billion to develop a second phase at the Arklow Bank wind farm off the County Wicklow coast. The site is currently the Republic of Ireland’s only offshore wind farm. The 25MW project was developed in 2004 by GE Wind Energy and Airtricity, which has since been acquired by SSE. Planning consent is prepared to boost the Arklow site to generate 520MW or as much as 800MW, with up to 100 turbines.
SSE Renewables projects director Paul Cooley welcomed the Irish government’s climate plan, published in June, that called for at least 3.5GW of offshore wind by 2030 in Dublin’s first commitment to the sector.
“It includes key actions to remove the regulatory and licensing obstacles for offshore wind development in Ireland, which SSE Renewables has been advocating for some time,” Cooley said.
“There are already a number of projects at various stages of development in Irish waters, and it’s crucial that these projects are now prioritised to give Ireland the best possible chance of achieving its binding EU targets, and avoiding significant fines for failing to do so.”