Ireland to Grant First Offshore Wind Consents Under New Regime This Year

Irish Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, has launched consultation on important aspects of the new Maritime Area Consent (MAC) regime for the first phase of offshore wind projects to be granted consent, which is expected for the second half of this year.

“As Minister for the Environment, I will have the responsibility of inviting Maritime Area Consent applications from an initial batch of offshore renewable energy projects. The grant of the first Maritime Area Consents this year will represent a significant milestone in realising our ambitious climate targets of 5GW 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”, Minister Ryan said.

The consultation on the MAC regime, which closes on 16 February, presents the proposed model for the assessment of the first offshore renewable energy projects and outlines important information on how the new regime will operate. Feedback received will help finalise the Maritime Area Consent assessment regime. 

The regime, which follows the enactment of the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Act in December 2021, will be a first step in a new and streamlined planning process.

While the MAP Act provides the legal underpinning for an entirely new marine planning system, the Maritime Area Consent regime will assess the viability of offshore renewable energy developers in a number of key areas, including their financial and technical competency, in advance of developers proceeding to environmental studies.

Developers who have been assessed for, and are subsequently awarded, a Maritime Area Consent can then proceed to apply for development permission (planning permission), where they will undergo environmental assessment, according to the Irish government.

After the assessment and grant of the first batch of offshore wind projects, responsibility will be handed over to a new Agency – the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), which will be established and operational from 2023.

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Photo: The Arklow Bank offshore wind farm in Ireland. Source: SSE (archive)