Thursday 13 December 2018

EirGrid: planning delays could hit offshore wind boost

Eirgrid has told TDs that the existing system to connect offshore wind farms to the grid is not fit for purpose. Stock image
Eirgrid has told TDs that the existing system to connect offshore wind farms to the grid is not fit for purpose. Stock image

Paul Melia Environment Editor

EIRGRID wants to build an offshore grid to accommodate a significant boost in renewable power generation.

The grid operator has told TDs that the existing system to connect offshore wind farms to the grid is not fit for purpose, and acts as a "barrier" to development.

Addressing the Dáil climate change committee, EirGrid CEO Mark Foley said some 25MW of offshore wind - sufficient for around 20,000 homes - was currently connected to the grid, but that developers had sought permission to connect another 5,600MW, predominantly off the east coast.

Mr Foley said the cost of developing offshore farms had dropped "considerably" over the last decade, but that the existing consenting system was not "fit for purpose".

"Frankly, the time has come for Ireland to embrace offshore wind at scale as a vital element in our fight to reverse the trajectory of carbon emissions from industry and society," he said.

"However, our understanding is that the consenting regime for offshore wind farms is not fit for purpose and is therefore operating as a barrier to developers to committing development capital to new developments."

EirGrid proposes developing a "centralised model" used in countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands, where the grid operator would masterplan an area and secure planning consent for an offshore grid network.

Developers would connect to this grid via subsea cables, with power transferred to the mainland and into homes and businesses.

Mr Foley said a "very large" onshore wind farm could generate 100MW of power, while a "small" offshore project could generate 500MW, and up to 1,000MW.

Meanwhile, Bord na Mona has said it expects to generate up to 500 new jobs in waste and development of clean fuels over the coming years, but warned more jobs would be lost as it moved away from peat production around 2027.

CEO Tom Donnellan said job opportunities would be created as the firm moved away from peat, and it was preparing for the future.

Irish Independent

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