Plans for an ambitious renewable energy project off the County Louth coastline are set to be submitted for approval to An Bord Pleanala later this year.
The Oriel Windfarm project being jointly developed by Parkwind and ESB stretches back two decades, but by 2021, the project has become centred on proposals for 25 wind turbines just off Dundalk bay, a reduction on the original plans for more than fifty.
With a planning application set to be lodged in the coming months, Parkwind and ESB have presented details of the full project online, with Covid restrictions preventing face to face public consultation.
Garrett Connell, project manager explained that when completed the project will have the capacity to generate electricity to meet the needs of 300,000 homes.
‘We are preparing to submit a planning application later this year, and as part of that we would normally undertake some public consultation where we would get the views of local communities and other stakeholders.’
Instead, Parkwind and ESB are encouraging the public to join the online forum, and participate in a webinar being held on February 10th.
The Louth development will be the first Irish Sea Offshore Wind Energy project developed by Parkwind and ESB, and is also likely to be the first fully operational commercial wind farm in Irish waters.
The site was chosen based on an assessment of water depth, seabed sediments, wind speeds, shelter from high wave loads, low tidal currents, and access to existing grid infrastructure.
In 2010 Oriel was granted a conditional Foreshore Lease to construct an offshore wind farm in the waters to the east of Dundalk Bay. The project was delayed due to market conditions and the collapse of the economy.
In 2017 Parkwind invested in the project, becoming the operator, bringing considerable technical expertise to the project. More recently, ESB have joined the project.
The new project team has spent the last two years updating environmental surveys and technical data, and the final updated design of the Oriel wind farm will be established following further study and public engagement.
The project will be up to 370 MW in capacity. It will be located between six and 22km from the coast, and will be visible from the Cooley coastline, Blackrock, and as far south as Annagassan and Dunany point.
Application submitted under new marine development legislation
Planning for the proposed Oriel windfarm will come in under new legislation set to be made law this year.
Oriel have confirmed they will apply for consent for the updated project under the Marine Planning and Development Management legislation when enacted.
‘This new legislation will provide a comprehensive and holistic approach to the management of the development and activities in the marine space and aligns the consent process with onshore planning and development.’
They company intends to make an application for planning consent to An Bord Pleanála under this new process in mid 2021.
‘This application will take into account the feedback from this and other parts of the public consultation process. The application will be accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report. When the application is made, there will be another opportunity for the public to make observations.’
As part of the planning process, the company say they are ‘committed to working with all stakeholders in the region to maximise the economic benefits that this project will bring and to enable local businesses to participate in Ireland’s transition to a low carbon economy.’
The Oriel Wind Farm project will also have a substantial community fund, which will be paid on an annual basis for fifteen years.
‘The fund will be required to provide for significant investment in local projects each year during its lifetime.’
A ‘fisheries fund’ has also been announced ‘to support the long term sustainability of the local fishing communities and enable research into fisheries in the region.
Anyone who would like further information on the Oriel windfarm project, and to find out how you can make submissions to the public consultation phase sign up on the Oriel website, www.orielwindfarm.ie
‘Cautious welcome’ from fishermen group
Fishermen working off the Louth coast have ‘cautiously welcomed’ plans for the new Oriel Windfarm.
The Clogherhead fishing group, with around fifty members stretching south from Annagassan, are one of the groups affected by the proposals to build the first offshore windfarm in the north east. Chairman, Patrick Smith said the project leaders had been liasing with their group as plans for the windfarm progressed over the last few years.
He explained that their members are mainly prawn fishermen who are not significantly impacted by the plans.
‘I think everyone accepts in the long term that these windfarms are going to happen in some form or another.’
He described Oriel windfarm as one of the smaller projects proposed for the eastern coastline, and at this stage they were giving it a ‘cautious welcome.’
Some of their members have pots for crabs and lobsters in the area where the turbines are set to be located, which is a greater concern, he said, adding. ‘We would like them to be facilitated in some way.’
‘The other concern we would have is the use of Clogherhead harbour, which is already very busy with fishing boats,’ so we’d like to know their plans there.’
He said they were encouraging everyone who will be impacted to sign up to the webinar to find out all they could about the plans for the windfarm.
Power to be piped to Ardee
The power supply generated from the multi-million euro plan for an offshore windfarm, close to Clogherhead, will be carried underground to a substation east of Ardee.
Oriel Windfarm Ltd has confirmed that cables will be buried along the route of the project, which is set to come ashore south of Dunany Point.
It will then go underground and for the most part, along roads with a limited number of landowners impacted.
Those that are part of the scheme have already been contacted.
The company say that as part of the consultation process , local residents along the route will be advised about the project.
Due to public health restrictions, the consultation will be hosted online.
A virtual exhibition featuring details of the project is now available online and a public webinar is also scheduled for 10th February.
Once operational, the Oriel offshore wind farm is expected to generate enough electricity to cover the needs of over 300,000 households – more than the population of counties Louth, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and Down.
Oriel will thereby contribute to the reduction of Ireland’s carbon emissions by 600,000 tonnes per annum.
Developing renewable energy resources is key to reducing the reliance on imported fossil fuels, and offshore wind is a clean renewable source of energy.
Offshore winds are more constant enabling offshore wind turbines to generate power more of the time compared to other technologies.
The benefits of offshore winds are that they are stronger, meaning offshore wind turbines generate more electricity.
Offshore wind speeds are also faster. A turbine in a 24km/h wind can generate twice as much energy as a turbine in a 19km/h wind.
An online community briefing webinar on the new Oriel Windfarm will take place on February 10th at 7pm.
You can register a place at this event on the website or by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
The goal of these events is to obtain feedback on the project. You can email your views on the project to email@example.com. You can also write to Oriel Wind Farm, DKIT, Dundalk, Co. Louth or call on 01 963 0313.
The project is on track to start construction in 2024, subject to planning permission and government policy. They would commence generation in 2025.
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