The new generation of giant offshore wind turbines will challenge public attitudes and test political commitment to renewable energy.
Turbines currently under testing are up to three times the height of the Statue of Liberty and nearly four times taller than the 70 metre turbines in Ireland’s only offshore wind farm near Arklow.
Ireland is expecting a surge in offshore wind farms in the next decade with several major projects at various stages of development.
But an industry expert has warned the huge turbines cannot be installed to fixed points on the seabed in water greater than 50 metres deep, which makes them very visible from land.
Peter Coyle, chairman of the Marine Renewables Industry Association, said despite strong Government backing for the sector, opposition could emerge once the public literally see what’s on the horizon.
“We believe that the early projects will get away but there’s a little bit of a problem here.
“The 50-metre contour line, the absolute limit for traditional bottom-fixed wind, is very close to the coast, it’s very close to major population centres,” he said.
“We sense that the visual impact of today’s big turbines – much bigger than those deployed in Middelgrunden [the world’s first commercial offshore wind farm] and Arklow – may become a political issue in time because where we’re looking at the early deployments on the east coast is where most of the population lives.”
He said the focus may have to shift quickly to the south and west coast and to floating wind turbines.
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