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Displaying items by tag: Offshore Renewable Energy

The devastating invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin’s forces has focused minds on reducing energy dependence on Russia, with Ireland Inc gearing up to be the “Saudi Arabia” of offshore renewable.

However, the Government’s delay in setting up a liaison forum between the offshore renewable industry and a major stakeholder, the fishing industry, has opened it up to claims that it has set the two sectors on an avoidable “collision course”.

Fishing industry leader John Lynch and south-east vessel owner Caitlin Uí Aodha, who was the first female skipper to secure a BIM boatbuilding grant some decades ago, both voiced their concerns about this at a recent conference hosted by Simply Blue Energy at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Cork.

Apart from the impact on fishing grounds, there are also concerns about unknown environmental effects - a recent study found that the migratory path of brown crabs may be shifted irreversibly by the geomagnetic fields coming from turbine cables.

“We want to be green – but we simply don’t know enough,” Uí Aodha has said in an interview with Wavelengths below

Published in Wavelength Podcast

The Government is seeking a chair for a new seafood-offshore renewable energy working group.

Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien has invited applications from “suitably qualified candidates”, with a deadline of March 25th for applying.

O’Brien’s department says it is “working in conjunction with colleagues from the Departments of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; and Environment, Climate and Communications respectively” to establish a working group within the context of the National Marine Planning Framework (NMPF).

Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue had acknowledged delays in setting up the group when he addressed the recent offshore renewable energy conference on marine skills and qualifications, hosted by Simply Blue Energy at the National Maritime College of Ireland in Ringaskiddy, Cork Harbour.

The conference heard that the fishing industry and offshore renewable energy would be on a “collision course” unless action was taken to set up the stakeholder forum.

The new working group will “facilitate discussion on matters arising from the interaction of the seafood and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment”, the Department of Housing says.

It says the chairperson will be responsible for “leadership of the working group and ensuring its effectiveness on all aspects of its role”.

It outlines the working group’s primary objectives as being :

  • To enable and establish a framework for constructive engagement through regular scheduled and responsive communications between the seafood and offshore renewable energy sectors.
  • To develop clear and defined Guidelines for interactions between the seafood and ORE industries with regard to ORE developments within the context of the NMPF.

It says that interested parties can submit their application to [email protected]

The deadline for receipt of applications is 4 pm on Friday, March 25th 2022.

More information on the background to the Seafood –ORE working group, the objectives of the group, and the role of the chairperson can be found here

Published in Marine Planning

Ireland‘s unique opportunity to help Europe reduce its dependence on Russian oil could be hampered by a severe skills shortage for developing offshore renewable energy, industry experts have warned.

And unless the Government moves quickly on establishing a stakeholder liaison group, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, a conference at the National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) was told.

Ireland can be a leading wind and wave energy supplier, but it will only capture just over 20 per cent of jobs required unless the Government co-ordinates specific training, Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe said.

Wind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel CunniffeWind Energy Ireland chief executive Noel Cunniffe

Cunniffe was speaking at the event hosted by Simply Blue Energy, on the theme of “Our Offshore Renewable Energy Opportunity – Is Ireland Ready” which dealt with maritime qualifications and certification.

His organisation, which represents the wind energy industry, has urged development of specialist marine apprenticeship schemes and a skills plan for renewable energy involving schools and universities, he told the conference at the NMCI hosted by Simply Blue Energy.

This was echoed by Dr Alan Power of the Government’s expert group on future skills needs, who said that marine careers are a “significant growth area”.

To meet the Government’s five GW target for offshore wind by 2030, a range of key occupations will be required including engineers, ecologists, marine biologists, hydrologists, and people with construction and technical skills, Power said.

Marine operators and ship crew, wind turbine technicians and experienced professions in transport and logistics will also be required, he said.

Marine renewable expert Prof Tony Lewis of University College Cork recalled a similar discussion on skills shortages in oil and gas 40 years ago when the Kinsale gas field was being developed.

Prof Tony Lewis of University College CorkProf Tony Lewis of University College Cork

“We missed that opportunity then,” he said, urging a coordinated approach with an “enterprise focus” to ensure Ireland could supply the required expertise without losing out to foreign companies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta said renewable energy jobs could also help to sustain Gaeltacht areas, but a holistic approach to skills and training was required by all Government departments and agencies.

Mark de Faoite of Údarás na GaeltachtaMark de Faoite of Údarás na Gaeltachta

However, offshore wind and the fishing industry are on a “collision course”, with fears about the impact on fishing now greater than the impact of Brexit, John Lynch, chief executive of the Irish South and East Fish Producers’ Organisation said.

“There is no question that we do require renewable energy and it is a great opportunity,” Lynch said, but it had “got off to a bad start”.

He described how renewable energy companies came to meetings with fishers with “a presentation, a map” but with “pre-determined sites” in inshore coastal areas.

“We had no input into the position of those sites,” he said, and “co-existence would have been far easier” if there had been prior consultation.

Even if fishing was allowed near an offshore wind farm, the risk of snagging gear, accidental damage to equipment and the risk of prosecution over same would pose serious challenges and could cause insurance problems, Lynch explained.

Co Waterford vessel owner Caitlín Uí Aodha said “the hunters are being hunted off their grounds”.

“We want to be green, but we need you to understand fishing is not just a job, but a way of life, a tradition, a heritage,” Uí Aodha said, emphasising the need for seafood protein suppliers to survive.

“I am not convinced that those involved in this [renewable] industry are there to look after me..you’re there to make money,” she told renewable energy representatives at the conference.

In his opening address, Minister for Marine Charlie McConalogue acknowledged delays in establishing an offshore renewable energy/seafood liaison forum, and recruitment was ongoing for a chairperson.

Attracta Uí Bhroin of the Irish Environmental Network identified delays in marine spatial planning by Government as being critical.

Ireland is required to extend its network of marine protected areas, but any attempt to co-locate offshore wind farms in protected areas cannot be a “box-ticking exercise” in relation to protected of the marine environment, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea

The National Maritime College of Ireland (NMCI) will host a hybrid conference/webinar on Friday 4 March 2022 entitled ‘Our Offshore Renewable Energy Opportunity – Is Ireland Ready?’. The conference, sponsored by Simply Blue Group, will bring together representatives from across Ireland’s maritime and supply chain workforce to explore their preparedness to the Offshore renewables’ opportunity.

The conference will seek specifically to put the spotlight on the qualifications and certifications for the fishing industry to ensure it is fit for the dual purpose of keeping fishermen fishing, while simultaneously ensuring that our coastal communities mariners and infrastructure are best placed to contribute to and benefit from this developing maritime industry.

Minister for Agriculture and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, will open the event, which will be Chaired by Feargal Keane from RTE Radio 1 programme ‘Seascapes’. Speakers include Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, Dr Alan Power, Assistant Principal, Labour Market and Skills Unit, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, as well as Dr Val Cummins, Simply Blue Group, Damien Turner (IS&WFPO), Wind Europe, and a representative from BIM will participate.

Among the topics for discussion are the Policy Regime for Renewable Energy; the Expert Group on Future Workforce Skills Report on the Low Carbon Economy; A Developer Case Study – Floating Offshore Wind off Ireland’s Coasts; Co-existence of Offshore Renewable Energy with the Fishing Industry; and the future opportunities for Ireland’s fishing Industry.

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD said: “The Government is committed to Ireland achieving its ambitious 2030 targets of generating 5GW of offshore wind and 80% renewables as a critical element of our national strategy to address climate change. The enactment of the Maritime Area Planning Bill will be central to this strategy. Of equal importance will be ensuring we have the requisite skills in the maritime and supply chain workforce to realise the full potential of this exciting opportunity for our coastal communities. This conference, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders will be an excellent showcase for the potential of this rapidly evolving sector.”

Speaking about the event, Captain Brian Fitzgerald, Director of External Affairs and Stakeholder Liaison, Simply Blue Group said “As Ireland struggles to meet the challenges of climate change, and fishing communities struggle with an unknown future, offshore renewable energy developments will have a far greater chance of delivering a sustainable future for all, including the incentivization of our youth to get involved, if the solutions are co-created. Ireland needs its best team on the field."

Cormac Gebruers, Head of College, NMCI, said “We look forward to hosting this significant discussion for the maritime community. We hope the event will awaken Ireland’s mariners to an exciting and co-existing future that sees a thriving and growing fishing industry working in harmony with Ireland meeting its climate action targets.”

Mark O'Reilly, MD Fishery Liaisons said “The stakeholders most affected by Ireland’s development of its ocean wealth are those in our fishing industry and associated coastal communities. It is well known that they face increasing challenges and fears for the future. In the areas suitable for offshore wind development, nobody knows the sea and the seabed better than the fishers that work there. The sensible approach is for the industry and developers to work together to harness the possibilities from offshore wind.”

To attend this conference in-person or online please contact [email protected] Full programme available below.

Published in Power From the Sea

The State’s new maritime area regulatory authority (MARA) will be established and operational from 2023, according to Minister for Environment Eamon Ryan.

He said establishing MARA is “of the highest priority for Government” when he announced consultation on key aspects of the State’s new maritime area consent (MAC) regime for offshore renewable energy.

He said MAC will be a first step in a “new and streamlined planning process”.

Developers who have been assessed for, and are subsequently awarded, a MAC can then proceed to apply for development permission (planning permission), where they will undergo environmental assessment, he said.

This follows the enactment of the Maritime Area Planning Act on December 23rd, 2021.

The Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act provides the legal underpinning for an entirely new marine planning system, he said, which will “strike a balance, between harnessing Ireland’s huge offshore wind potential and protecting our rich and unique marine environment”.

He explained that the MAC regime “will assess the viability of proposed offshore renewable energy developers in a number of key areas, including in respect of their financial and technical competency, in advance of developers proceeding to environmental studies”.

“The Maritime Area Planning Act is a transformational piece of legislation,” he said, which “provides regulatory certainty and the legislative underpinning for Ireland to embrace its abundant offshore potential”.

“Under the Act, the creation of a new MAC as a ‘first step’ in the planning process will ensure a fair and robust assessment of potential offshore renewable energy developers,” he said.

“ This will ensure that only the most viable offshore projects will have the opportunity to apply for development permission from An Bord Pleanála. At that point, they will undergo all the necessary environmental assessments,”he said.

“As Minister for the Environment, I will have the responsibility of inviting MAC applications from an initial batch of offshore renewable energy projects,” he said.

This would “represent a significant milestone in realising our ambitious climate targets of 5GW [Giga Watt] of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030 and a long-term plan to take advantage of a potential of at least 30GW of floating wind thereafter”, he added.

“After the assessment and grant of the first batch of offshore renewable energy projects, responsibility will be handed over to MARA, “he said.

This consultation on MAC regime “presents the proposed model for the assessment of the first offshore renewable energy projects”, he said, and “outlines important information on how [it] will operate”.

“Feedback received will help finalise the MAC assessment regime,” he said, with the first such consents expected to be issued in the second half of this year (2022).

The consultation will remain open for a period of four weeks until February 16th, 2022 and can be accessed here

Published in Marine Planning

Renewable sources in the west are already generating more energy than the region needs, even before offshore energy sources are developed, a new report states.

Forecasts that connected renewable generation will “more than double” before 2030 mean there must be “active engagement” with communities on project locations, the report published by the Western Development Commission (WDC) says.

Rural communities must not only be consulted on future renewable energy projects, but schemes also offer” huge opportunities” for communities as “project shareholders”, the WDC report says.

The report on making a transition to a low carbon economy, which was published by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys, recommends increasing remote working and use of “remote hubs” to reduce commuting as part of moves to a low carbon future.

A recent study by Eirwind calculated that Ireland has more offshore wind resource than energy demand and could be exporting bulk hydrogen.

The 30-year strategy by Eirwind, an industry-led consortium involving University College, Cork (UCC) researchers, has recommended setting up a joint forum between the fishing and offshore wind sectors.

It has said the fishing industry must be treated as a “primary stakeholder”.

The new Irish programme for government has raised a target of 3.5 gigawatt (GW) energy production from offshore wind to five GW by 2030, and specifies the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea for development.

The new government programme also signals that 30 GW of renewable energy could be derived from the Atlantic coast.

The Eirwind report describes floating offshore wind technology as a “game-changer,” and the period 2020 to 2030 as a “defining decade” for investing in green hydrogen and grid reinforcement.

The WDC report published today and written by Dr Helen McHenry makes a number of recommendations in relation to the transition to a low carbon economy in rural and coastal areas.

These recommendations include aligning the charging infrastructure for electric vehicles with rural enterprise hubs and broadband connection points.

Other key recommendations include use of “appropriate wood fuels” in the transition period, and retrofitting a “demonstration home” in each county to show the benefits of a switch away from fossil fuels.

The report says an increase in remote working should continue post-Covid-19, and use of rural enterprise hubs would encourage time spent in towns and villages.

“There are significant opportunities to make rural towns and villages the focus of social and economic activity through the use of enterprise hubs which can facilitate increased remote working,” WDC chief executive Tomás Ó Siocháin said.

He also identified the opportunities for communities to “benefit as shareholders in renewable energy projects and more broadly to re-imagine travel and mobility across the region”.

The report’s calculation that the west already has 120 per cent of electricity needs generated from renewable sources is based on a 31.5% capacity factor for renewable energy and a demand factor of 65% of maximum demand, Dr McHenry explained

There are 1,699 megawatts (MW )installed renewable capacity, while peak demand in the region is 680MW, she said.

Published in Power From the Sea

Plans for upscaling offshore renewable energy under the new Programme for Government will fail unless the State agencies receive more resources, an industry group has warned.

The Marine Renewables Industry Association (MRIA) has described as “revolutionary” the new targets, which include increasing offshore wind energy from 3.5 gigawatts (GW) to five GW off the east and south coast by 2030.

The programme aims to draw up plans for exploiting the west coast renewable energy resource, and promises a major scientific research programme with a focus on wave energy and floating wind energy.

The programme also commits to approving new consenting legislation. The outgoing government had drawn up the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, which replaces existing foreshore legislation at a time of increasing pressure on the coastal environment.

MRIA chairman Peter Coyle has welcomed the plan and ambitions, describing them as “high and necessarily complex”, but warns that agencies currently handling offshore renewables are being “run on a shoestring”.

Mr Coyle notes they are “unsustainable”, unless the relevant government department and consenting body for offshore energy are allocated “substantial” extra staff.

Currently, the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Energy and Bord Pleanála hold these roles.

“You cannot have a revolution in climate action unless there are sufficient revolutionaries,” Mr Coyle says.

Last week, outgoing Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton issued a closing date of July 1st for public submissions on scaling up renewable energy output through offshore wind.

A consultancy report, published by Mr Bruton, outlines four options - ranging from a “developer-led” scenario, where each project would design its own connection to a more centralised “plan-led” offshore transmission development with more State involvement.

The selected model will be aligned with Ireland’s new National Marine Planning Framework, and the development consent regime for the maritime area as set out in the Maritime Planning and Development Management legislation, Mr Bruton said.

Published in Power From the Sea

#ports – The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) says Irish Ports are in a good position to captialise on the growing demand for offshore renewable energy services.

Last month Afloat reported that both Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Pat Rabbitte TD and the Chairman of one of the world's leading developers of offshore wind energy, Eddie O'Connor of Mainstream Renewables spoke of Ireland's unique position as a leader of offshore power at an International Conference on Ocean Energy in the National Convention Centre in Dublin.

Ireland's offshore renewable energy resources are amongst the highest in the world with a potential of between 63,000 and 73,000 MW of power available for harnessing. Ports will play a key role in facilitating future large-scale developments and operations of ocean energy devices (wind turbines, wave energy converters and tidal turbines).

In a report published today the entitled "The Irish Ports Offshore Renewable Energy Services" (IPORES). The IMDO provides a detailed summary of information on Irish port infrastructure, facilities and management plans in relation to meeting requirements of marine renewable energy developers. The report found that at least seven Irish ports are in a good situation to facilitate and service both current and future demands of the offshore marine renewable sector. The report identifies that large scale development projects in particular have strong potential to generate several hundred new jobs and other positive economic benefits for the regions.

The report provides a number of recommendations including the establishment of clear targets to deliver new offshore ocean renewable projects at Irish ports leading to new investment and employment opportunities.

The study involved a detailed stakeholder consultation process and analysis of 14 ports around the island of Ireland including a comparison with some key renewable energy services ports in the UK and Germany. Irish Ports were categorised according to criteria that would meet the requirements to service the offshore renewable energy sector which included port infrastructure, available quay space and hinterland, depth of water, past experience with the sector, proximity to markets, potential for job creation and availability of skills and maritime services.

The full The Irish Ports Offshore Renewable Energy Services report is available for download below as a pdf

Published in Power From the Sea

#FORMER IRISH LIGHTS TENDER -With the Guardian 8 preparing to set sail from her builders homeport of Arklow this month, as previously reported on Afloat.ie, her owners Gardline Marine Services also operate a former Commissioners of Irish Lights tender, writes Jehan Ashmore.

The Great Yarmouth based company operate a multi-purpose fleet which includes the survey vessel Ocean Seeker (PHOTO). She was a familiar sight as the ILV Granuaile (1970/1,943grt) while serving for three decades from the Irish Lights marine depot in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Built by Fergusan Brothers of Port Glasgow, she was the last traditional tender for CIL in that her working deck was positioned forward. Apart from the short career of the Gray Seal, the 2000 built successor ILV Granuaile (the third to carry the name of the Mayo pirate queen) was the first custom built tender for CIL to introduce a radical design with an aft end work deck.

Published in Lighthouses

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan today published the Offshore Renewable Energy Development Plan for public consultation.

Ireland's ocean territory is 10 times our land mass size. This Plan, in conjunction with the Strategic Environmental Assessment of Irish Waters also published today, looks at offshore wind, wave and tidal energy resources and how that could be maximised in the years ahead.

Crucially, this work found that Ireland could produce up to 10 times our existing electricity demand without significant environmental impacts.

Announcing the plan at the Irish International Energy Conference – Pathway to 2050, Minister Ryan said, "This Government has begun an energy revolution. We have doubled the amount of renewable energy on our system and we want to go further.

Every megawatt of renewable energy that goes onto the Irish national grid reduces our €6 billion annual fossil fuel bill, reduces our carbon emissions and creates Irish jobs. Today's study shows that we have a massive potential for renewable energy off our shores. Wind, wave and tidal off the Irish coast can produce 10 times our own electricity needs without adversely affecting the environment.

My Department is working to maximise this potential. Our recovery will be based on exports. Our capacity to produce this green electricity gives us major export potential. We are working with Scotland and Northern Ireland on the ISLES project to develop interconnection with these close neighbours. Working is advancing with 9 countries across Europe on the North Seas initiative to develop a 'supergrid' to trade this renewable power. At the end of this month I will travel to London to meet Secretary Huhne to work out a trading agreement with the United Kingdom on renewable energy.

We can create more power than we require if we go off our coasts. This is Ireland's great export opportunity and we will work to realise it".

The plan goes to public consultation around the country for 2 months where developers, investors and local communities can give their views.

Published in Power From the Sea

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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