INTERNATIONAL makers of wind-energy and cabling products will be courted to set up major manufacturing operations in Ireland as part of a €6bn plan to export power from Ireland to the UK. It could lead to the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, it has been claimed.
Eddie O'Connor, the former Bord na Mona boss, who founded Mainstream Renewable Power, has said he is planning to hold a major supply-chain conference in Ireland in the coming months in an effort to persuade foreign manufacturers that they will need bases here to provide the infrastructure his firm will need.
Mainstream is developing a so-called 'Energy Bridge' project that aims to export 5,000 megawatts of electricity from a massive Irish wind farm in the midlands to the UK.
The scheme will involve the erection of about 1,600 wind turbines and involve the laying of hundreds, if not thousands of miles of cabling.
It will also require the laying of undersea cables between Ireland and Britain.
Speaking to the Irish Independent, Mr O'Connor said that given the scale of the project, it would make more sense for the manufacturers to establish bases here. He has already held talks with firms in the UK, Germany and Switzerland.
Mainstream has just finalised a deal with the UK's National Grid to supply it with 5,000MW of power between 2017 and 2020.
Mr O'Connor, who made millions of euro from the 2008 sale of Airtricity, expects a planning application for the massive wind farm in the midlands to be submitted to An Bord Pleanala by 2015 and that it will be in a position to start generating power two years later.
The company has secured agreements with about half of the landowners from whom it needs to get permission in order to construct the wind farm. The remainder of the farmers are currently in final discussions.
Mr O'Connor said the project would "undoubtedly" involve investment from China. Mainstream has already secured finance from China for some of its international projects.
"Between 2017 and 2021 we would require full-throttle manufacturing," said Mr O'Connor on Mainstream's demand for turbines and associated equipment.
The company has raised €273m since it was founded in 2008. Mr O'Connor said it would need to raise further funds.
It recently secured a €60m loan agreement with Macquarie Group.
There are about 300 private investors in Mainstream, but Mr O'Connor said the particular finance well had "probably come to the end".