Wind Energy Ireland Offshore Conference
The Wind Energy Ireland Offshore Conference took place last on the 21 and 22 September in Dublin, and Marlene, Barrie and Richard from our Ireland projects’ team were there to discuss all things Flotation Energy. We caught up with Flotation Bid and Early Opportunities Development Manager, Marlene Orth to get her thoughts on how the event has shaped up.
Marlene, tell us who’s at the event and what’s been happening?
This year’s Wind Energy Ireland Offshore Conference is back! It’s bigger and better this year, with a keynote address from Eamon Ryan, Irish Minister for Environment, Climate, Communications and Transport and a whole host of developers, industry bodies and public stakeholder groups.
The wide mix of people really demonstrates Ireland’s strong commitment to the offshore wind industry. Ireland has a big target of 7GW of offshore wind – this ambitious goal is achievable but we must act now.
Pre-eminent economist and journalist David McWilliams delivered a passionate appeal to policy makers, developers, manufacturers and industry bodies alike: We are at a crucial point in (energy) history and it is up to us to all pull together to make the vision of sustainable Irish Wind Energy happen.
We can apply a lot of lessons learned from the UK where the industry is already an elementary driver of our future green low-carbon economy. We can realise the same fantastic benefits in Ireland and are excited to be developing one of the first commercial-scale wind farms here. Greystones is a key project – both in the Irish offshore wind market and in Flotation Energy’s sizeable portfolio.
What’s been the key messages coming out of the event?
There’s evidently a huge amount of opportunity for offshore wind, however, there is so much that still needs to be actioned to ensure that Ireland remains at the forefront of this global industry and can capitalise on all the opportunities available.
Ireland is fast-tracking its offshore wind sector in line with its Climate Action Plan 2021 and currently has 51 offshore wind projects under development but only 2 in construction, so it’s a busy time with lots of planning and scoping to prepare for the future. Its aim is to increase the country’s offshore wind capacity to 7GW as part of the Irish Government’s ambition to deliver 80% of electricity from renewable sources by 2030. To do this, they require its phase 1 projects to come on stream very soon, with phase 2 projects following close behind!
Recent political events have catapulted the desire and the very real need for Europe to become energy independent and this requires a consistent, collaborative and accelerated effort across not just industry, but across government and key state companies too. Creating a new, secure zero-carbon energy system is one of the biggest infrastructural challenges we’ve faced in current times, and how we work together to achieve this, using the best people and the comprehensive engineering and industrial knowledge we have within the region, will be absolutely paramount to achieving this goal.
What challenges were highlighted at the event?
The biggest challenge for developers, as was repeated by many of the wonderful presenters, are the “3 Cs”:
Developers need more certainty from the government around the requirements and timelines of surveys and licences, chief among those are the foreshore licences that can take up to 18 months to obtain. With only 8 years’ to consent, construct and commission 7GW worth of wind farms, this process is too lengthy.
Developers and investors alike need to be given confidence to commit significant sums now to undertake the surveys and studies necessary to meet very ambitious project timelines. The Irish government needs to provide clarity around the timeline of the specific milestones in the development process. Only then can the immense Irish offshore wind potential be realised.
Ensuring minimal impact on existing marine industry and of course the marine environment is a very significant consideration. New technologies to identify and mitigate potential impact are emerging and it was fascinating to hear the ideas and concepts around this particular challenge.
Another issue discussed was the lack of ports ready to accept offshore wind construction projects in the region. The National Ports Study has identified just one harbour (Belfast) as currently suitable to deliver these milestone projects. The positive news is that this challenge could be solved with support from the Irish Government to de-risk the level of up-front investment required to upgrade Irish ports. If that happens, these ports could be ready by 2025-26, which would match up with the construction phase of the wind farm developments and enable Ireland to manage contracts in the region; ensuring high-skilled jobs are retained and nurtured in-country.
What opportunities are being discussed?
Floating wind is seen as an attractive technology because it provides much better access to deeper waters and higher, more constant wind speeds than conventional fixed structures. Floating wind expands the potential areas available for development, helps to reduce visibility issues from shore and overall minimises the impact on both the marine environment and other seabed users.
Ireland has fantastic engineering expertise that will support offshore wind into a successful and exportable commodity. Uniquely positioned in Europe, Ireland’s natural resource with high constant wind speeds and a lot of coastline suitable for floating offshore wind make the country a prime location for fixed and floating offshore wind. It already has the highest onshore wind generation percentage in Europe.
Finally, what did you enjoy the most about Offshore Wind Ireland this year?
It’s always great to get out and about and meet peers and industry leaders, especially after the hiatus of the past two years. Hearing from key stakeholders about the challenges and the issues affecting the industry, as well as having first-hand exposure to the concerns and hopes / wants from public opinion is extremely useful also. And of course, being in a forum where we can discuss how Floatation’s vast expertise in offshore wind farm development can support the energy transition in Ireland as well as talk through some of the ways we can help with the challenges, is extremely exciting.
From a personal perspective this was one of the most well attended events I’ve been to, and I’d like to extend my thanks to the organisers at https://windenergyireland.com/ for such a fantastic conference.