Only One Irish Port Can Support Construction of Offshore Wind Farms – Report

Only a single port on the island of Ireland, Belfast Harbour, is ready to be used to construct offshore wind farms according to a new National Ports Study published by Wind Energy Ireland at its Annual Offshore Wind Energy Conference in Dublin.

The report, produced by Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions, is said to be the most detailed analysis ever carried out of the readiness of Irish ports for the development of offshore renewable energy.

It is said to include a thorough analysis of the existing infrastructure available at 13 ports and harbours on the island of Ireland and their plans for expansion to meet the needs of offshore wind.

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The ports and harbours examined in the report were, in alphabetical order, Belfast D1, Belfast Harland & Wolff, Bremore, Cork Dockyard, Foynes Island, Galway, Killybegs, Larne, Moneypoint, Port of Cork (Ringaskiddy), Ros an Mhíl, Rosslare Europort and Shannon-Foynes.

”We want to build Irish offshore wind farms in Irish ports. Our members – both ports and developers – are absolutely united on this. That is the best way to create jobs at home and to deliver offshore wind energy at the lowest possible price,” Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said.

”But we cannot build 7 GW of offshore wind energy by the end of 2030 if we only have a single port on the island suitable for building offshore wind farms. We need to be able to build more than one offshore wind project at the same time if we are to have any chance to deliver the carbon emissions cuts that the Government wants and that climate action requires.”

Cunniffe added that there was growing concern within the industry that projects might have to be built from outside Ireland or wait for availability in Belfast if 7 GW of offshore wind capacity is to be built in the next eight years.

”We know Minister Eamon Ryan is taking this seriously. Last year’s Government policy statement on offshore wind and commercial ports, combined with the new Offshore Wind Delivery Task Force, show an increased focus on delivery from the Department of Transport, the IMDO and other State agencies,” Cunniffe said.

The report makes several key recommendations including funding support from the Irish government which is expected to help de-risk the level of upfront investment and plug any funding gaps. This could be in the form of direct funding from the exchequer, a low-interest loan scheme or access to funding vehicles such as the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and the European Investment Bank, the stydy says.

Another key reccommendation is clarity. Huge uncertainty is said to remain about when offshore wind farm construction will start as developers seek clarity on the emerging offshore planning system and next year’s offshore renewable auction. Clarity on timescales would help developers and give confidence to investors looking at the detailed infrastructure plans brought forward by ports.

The study has also identified a risk that ports will struggle to get a foreshore survey licence on time or may spend years in the planning system. Wind Energy Ireland has previously highlighted the need for the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage to instruct An Bord Pleanála to prioritise planning applications related to renewable energy, including port infrastructure, to give the country the best chance of hitting our 2030 target.

While the report is frank about the challenges facing Ireland in developing the port infrastructure needed for offshore renewable energy there is also recognition of the determination among Irish ports to be part of the country’s energy revolution, Wind Energy Ireland said.

”Our ports have the ambition, the determination and the imagination to provide first-class infrastructure for the construction of offshore renewable energy projects. Ports like Rosslare, Cork Dockyard and Shannon-Foynes have already put in substantial work getting ready for offshore wind,” Sarah Gibson, Principal Engineer with Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions and the report’s lead author, said.

”Ports and developers both want this to happen. Ireland can be a base from which to build a generation of fixed-bottom and floating wind energy projects, creating thousands of jobs and ensuring that investment stays in Ireland. But it won’t just happen by itself. It will need Government, ports and renewable energy developers working together to make this ambition a reality.”

The report was co-funded by a number of Wind Energy Ireland members: Belfast Harbour, DP Energy, ESB, Inis Offshore Wind, Ocean Winds, Ørsted, Source Energie, and RWE.

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Photo: Source: Vestas/Illustration