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Rosslare could be an offshore powerhouse, with €100m spend



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ROSSLARE is the best positioned port in the Republic to be become a centre for offshore wind energy, but British ports are more likely to win the business.

Ireland can share in €8.6bn forecast to be spent over the coming decade to construct wind turbines and position them off the east and south-east coasts, according to a study by renewable energy consultants Carbon Trust.

However, a significant share of that spending will shift to whichever port in Britain or Ireland can capture the market, they said.

The report, commissioned by the Irish Wind Energy Association, analysed 21 ports and harbours and found none today could handle construction of offshore wind projects.

"As a nation we need to capture that investment and retain it in Ireland, so that it stimulates the economy and promotes sustained investment here," said report author Liam Leahy, who manages offshore wind for the Carbon Trust.

"Not one port in the Irish Republic is fully capable of serving the construction stage of offshore wind, so ultimately they're going to miss out on commercial opportunities," he said, noting that contracts probably would go instead to one of three UK ports: Belfast, Mostyn and Barrow.

The research identified Rosslare as the best candidate in the Republic but say it could require investment of €50m to €100m on new facilities to compete with UK ports.

Government here wants offshore wind to deliver at least 3.5 gigawatts to the national grid by 2030 as part of its Climate Action Plan goals.

Ireland's lone offshore generator, Arklow Bank, can produce up to 25 megawatts - only a 40th of a single gigawatt.

When asked to identify the strongest Irish candidates, Mr Leahy said Rosslare - which helped build Arklow Bank in 2004 - has the best balance of potential, though it too has weaknesses that would require investment ranging from €50m to €100m.

He said Dublin Port had the best facilities but too much container traffic to make it a likely base. Greenore, in Co Louth, is well situated for some projects but would need facilities to be built from scratch on land it doesn't own.

The report notes Rosslare lacks key machinery to build today's much bigger turbines - cranes able to lift at least 80 tonnes - but its location is best. "Of all the Irish ports, it (Rosslare) has the most strategic location in proximity to both the east and south coasts," it said.

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