Coastal communities have been given just three weeks to respond to a consultation on developing a network of offshore wind farms to meet Ireland’s climate targets.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, has given a closing date of July 1 for views on how to scale up renewable energy output through offshore wind.
Under the Government’s Climate Action Plan, 70% of Ireland’s electricity will be generated from renewable energy by 2030.
At least 3,500 MW (megawatts) of this will come from offshore wind, Mr Bruton has said, which is “enough to power over three million homes”.
“It is crucial that we put in place a model that allows us to scale up and realise the changes required.”
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.
There has been some surprise within the renewables sector at the report’s release and short timeline for consultation while Government formation talks are still in train – talks which could affect the climate targets.
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.
The report by Navigant consultants, based in the Netherlands, examines how other European countries approach offshore grid planning and outlines four variants of “developer-led” and “plan-led” approaches that might suit Ireland.
Under the “developer-led” model, applied in Britain, developers would prepare requirements for consents, select and pre-develop wind farm sites, plan and build farms and transmission assets.
Under the “plan-led” model, a State body would select wind farm sites and undertake pre-development and offshore grid connections – a model applied in the Netherlands, and one which would give more responsibility to Eirgrid and ESB Networks.
Under three of the four options outlined, the offshore wind transmission assets are owned and operated by the developer, who manages and bears the risk of outages to its transmission assets.
The Marine Renewables Industry Association (MRIA) chairman Peter Coyle said he welcomed the report’s publication as another example of Government commitment to renewable energy.
“This is going to set the rules for the game for the next 50 to 100 years, so the MRIA will be making a strong input to this consultation.”
He noted that the Government had recently designated seven offshore renewable energy projects in the Irish Sea and outer Galway Bay “transition” projects. If targets are increased, further locations will be required in the Celtic Sea and Atlantic, he said.
Irish Wind Energy Association chief executive Dr David Connolly said that “identifying how offshore wind farms will connect to the grid is critical to ensuring we can build the 3,500 MW of projects needed to deliver the Climate Action Plan.
“It is essential that an effective model for the grid is partnered with a robust planning system,” he said.
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