Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. To help tackle this challenge, offshore wind is becoming an increasingly important source of energy globally.
For Ireland, this poses huge opportunities for achieving our own decarbonisation targets, and for the development of our economy.
Enterprise Ireland has been working with Irish innovators in the offshore wind sector for several years.
We support companies in this sector to ensure their solutions are meeting the demands of the industry, both domestically and globally.
The ambition of our closest neighbours, the UK, to achieve 50 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 has also opened up significant opportunities for Irish companies with the right ambition, agility and capability.
Recognising that collaboration, partnership and communication are vital elements to the success of Irish companies in the offshore wind sector, Enterprise Ireland has led the formation of a new supply-chain cluster to help foster the development of Irish enterprises in this area.
With over 65 member companies, the Gael Offshore Network was officially launched at the recent Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum.
The forum, hosted by Enterprise Ireland in Dublin in early June, attracted attendees from across the UK and Ireland, bringing together Irish supply-chain companies with international developers such as Orsted and SSE Renewables, along with a range of established top-tier contractors.
The scale of the two-day event, and the calibre of the participants, reflected the strong and growing reputation of Irish companies in the sector.
The first day of the forum assessed the significant opportunities for Irish companies in the UK market, where numerous projects are already in development, under construction or operational. The focus on this day was practical knowledge, with industry experts highlighting project timelines, technology challenges, procurement routes, and areas of critical supply-chain support.
The second day of the forum examined the domestic Irish market – and in particular Ireland’s plans to produce at least 5GW of offshore wind by 2030. As well as the benefit to the environment and our climate goals, this target looks set to create further opportunities for Irish companies in the sector, as well as boosting our domestic economy through regional development and job creation.
The Gael Offshore Network includes expertise in key areas such as civil and marine engineering, geotechnical/geophysical capability, materials handling, environmental surveys and data collection, digital solutions and cybersecurity.
Some of the Irish success stories to date include Inland and Coastal Marina Systems, who design and build concrete pontoons to accommodate crew transfer vessels in offshore wind ports and harbours. The company has now delivered six significant UK projects, which together are worth several million euro.
The Co Offaly firm is an example of how agile Irish companies can be. The company traditionally delivered pontoon systems for the marine leisure industry, but quickly pivoted their product to suit the needs of the burgeoning offshore wind industry.
Possibly one of the biggest Irish success stories is XOCEAN, a Co Louth company established in 2017. XOCEAN uses uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) to collect valuable data from the seabed or to inspect subsea assets like cables and foundations on windfarms.
The company has won significant offshore wind contracts in the UK and Norway, and now has over 20 USVs in its ever-growing fleet, supported by well over 100 employees.
Cork company Irish Mainport, which has a long history of servicing the oil and gas industry, brought their offshore wind survey vessel, the Mainport Geo, to market two years ago.
Since then, the company has secured significant offshore wind contracts in the UK and Italy, including one on the UK’s Dogger Bank project.
Green Rebel is another fast-growing company from Cork, providing site investigation and data services to the offshore wind sector across marine, aerial and ‘metocean’ divisions. It has been recently appointed by Energia Group to carry out geophysical surveys for the 800MW North Celtic Sea offshore windfarm, off the coast of Waterford.
These companies are just an example of the strength of Ireland’s wider offshore wind supply chain.
With the ambition and ability that was on show at this year’s Enterprise Ireland Offshore Wind Forum, many more will soon follow.
Darragh Cotter is senior market advisor in industrial, utilities and cleantech at Enterprise Ireland