A €31 million floating wind project off the west coast has been approved . A full-scale floating wind turbine will be deployed for testing at a Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) site near Belmullet, Co Mayo, by 2022 .
The project is led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) working in partnership with SEAI and the engineering company Saipem.
Funding has been secured from the EU’s Interreg North West Europe programme to accelerate uptake of floating offshore wind at other locations. It will demonstrate the survivability and cost-competitiveness of floating offshore wind technology.
The seas off the west coast have some of the strongest wind resources in the world, while floating turbines are believed to be particularly suitable to such an environment as they operate effectively further out to sea and larger turbines can be used.
The project, known as AFLOWT (Accelerating Market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology), is the first of its kind at such a scale to draw on expertise from across Europe, and will also support development of an active supply chain in the region.
Minister for Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said decarbonising electricity supply would be crucial to Ireland becoming a leader in climate change.
“We are fortunate to have such a fantastic wind energy resource…However, we need to step up our ambition in this area and stretch ourselves farther. I welcome this project as an excellent opportunity to further explore the potential of offshore wind.”
EMEC, which is based in Orkney, Scotland, has up to now focussed on offshore tidal and wave power. Commenting on the move into floating wind, its commercial director Oliver Wragg said it had hosted more ocean energy technologies at its real sea-test berths in the UK than any other facility in the world.
“We have developed a wealth of knowledge and expertise that can now be transferred to the testing and demonstration of floating offshore wind to help it make the most cost effective and rapid transition to commercialisation.
“If floating offshore wind technology can operate reliably and efficiently on the west coast of Ireland, it will work anywhere. Through this project we hope that the successful technology demonstrations will fundamentally expand the global offshore wind market.”
Last October the world’s first commercial floating wind farm, the 30 megawatt Hywind Scotland project off Aberdeen, started to deliver electricity to the Scottish grid. Another major project is being considered off the coast of Cornwall.
SEAI chief executive Jim Gannon said there were many steps to be taken to deliver the ambitious project, and it would work with project partners, and local and national stakeholders, to maximise local and national benefits. “This project will show Ireland’s strengths, not only in terms of its significant wind resources, but also as a responsive, innovative and agile country.”
Stefano Porcari, chief operating officer of Saipem’s engineering and construction offshore division, said the project was “a unique opportunity to prove our floating wind technology in severe environments”.
Saipem will be supported by partners providing research and development inputs including Cable Life Cycle Assurance in France; Maritime Research Institute Netherlands; Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy Systems in Germany; the centre for renewable marine energy centre in UCC; and the ESB. EMEC will manage the project from the UK.
By testing off Belmullet, the technology developed in the project will be proven in the harshest of northwest Europe’s offshore environments, readying it for application at any deep-water offshore environment across the world.
Meanwhile, energy company SSE, developer of a proposed Arklow Bank wind park in the Irish Sea, is commencing an assessment of Wicklow port and Arklow harbour as possible locations for a service base for the project.
SSE is currently progressing plans to develop the 520MW facility with fixed turbines off Co Wicklow capable of generating enough renewable electricity to power half a million homes each year.
The project will require a land-based hub for servicing and maintaining the wind farm, and as a base for around 60 full-time employees working on its operation and maintenance.
The development will support companies across the supply chain, including those involved in vessel services, fuel, technical inputs, and loading and unloading of project cargoes.
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