Irish offshore wind projects step closer to reality

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: 19/05/2020 Irish Government

Ireland's Minister for Housing and Urban Development, Damien English, T.D, and the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, T.D. have announced that seven offshore wind projects have been designated as Relevant Projects. These are offshore wind projects that either applied for or were granted a lease under the Foreshore Act 1933, or offshore wind projects that are eligible to be processed to receive a valid grid connection offer.

The announcement means developers can continue to work and update a number of aspects of their projects so that they will be in a position to apply under the new marine planning regime, which will be introduced under the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2020.

Minister English commented: "I am pleased to announce a way forward for these offshore renewable energy projects which will now be determined under the planning regime to be introduced in the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2020. Under this new marine planning regime, these projects will apply for final development consent to An Board Pleanála which will provide further opportunities for public consultation on the individual projects."

Minister Bruton added: "This now sets out a clear development path for these offshore wind projects which will play a key role in decarbonising our electricity system. This is a clear example of the Government’s determination to deliver on our climate and renewable energy ambitions to deliver 70% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030."

The projects that have been approved are:
While some initial applications were made under the 1933 Foreshore Act for Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) projects as early as 1999, the Government decided not to support offshore wind in 2012, due to the high support costs necessary at that time.

Since then, the development of bigger and more cost-efficient offshore turbines combined with the ambitious climate and energy targets set out by the Government in the Climate Action Plan has changed the economic, social and environmental policy drivers to develop the offshore wind sector.

The Climate Action Plan sets out an ambition of meeting 70% of Ireland’s electricity consumption to be generated from renewable technologies by 2030. It identifies that offshore wind will play a key role in delivering on this ambition, by indicating that at least 3,500 MW of offshore wind generation capacity is needed by 2030 to meet the 70% renewable electricity ambition.

Each offshore renewable energy project must complete an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the consideration of these EIAs is a matter for the planning authorities, as appropriate. In the case of these large offshore wind projects, it will be An Board Pleanála.

The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, working with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and other stakeholders, will develop statutory marine planning guidelines to support best practice throughout the planning process for ORE, including the development of a specific visualisation assessment in relation to design and layout of proposed developments. These guidelines will, inter alia, provide that where a development consent is applied for in an area already subject to permission, proposals must include a visualisation assessment to inform design and layout.

The guidelines will support the operation of the new development management system to be introduced under the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill. This Bill will provide a modern, up-to-date regulatory and marine planning framework for offshore renewable energy developments beyond the limits of the foreshore (12 nautical miles). This will be an important foundation for investment in the offshore renewable energy sector as well as providing a more transparent, participative system for all marine stakeholders.

For more information on offshore wind farms worldwide, click here.