Friday 21 June 2019

SSE plans to spend up to €2bn on Irish offshore wind

SSE is planning to spend as much as €2bn to expand its small Arklow Bank offshore wind farm. Photo: PA
SSE is planning to spend as much as €2bn to expand its small Arklow Bank offshore wind farm. Photo: PA
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Energy giant SSE plans to spend as much as €2bn to expand its small Arklow Bank offshore wind farm into a major endeavour, which it says will have the ability to power half a million homes when useable wind energy is being generated.

Arklow Bank - located off the Wicklow coast - is Ireland's only operating offshore wind farm with just 7 turbines in operation.

Offshore wind has become more economic in recent years with the cost of capital equipment coming down, and a mechanism to subsidise it has been included in the Government's new renewable electricity support scheme.

Owner SSE is now planning to expand it significantly and outlined its vision to Wicklow County Council earlier this week. The company has a lease that provides consent for as many as 200 turbines - but said that advances in turbine technology over the last 15 years mean the maximum installed electricity capacity can be achieved with around half that.

Its plan is to connect the project to the shore via undersea cables. "SSE plans to invest between €1bn and €2bn to develop the Arklow Bank Wind Park to its minimum 520 megawatt (MW) potential," the company said. Its goal is to start construction in 2021 and start producing energy in 2023.

It said however that this is dependent on "key regulatory steps, including securing a grid connection offer and a government-backed energy contract under the new renewable electricity support scheme."

The support scheme will see "auctions" whereby renewable providers will compete with each other to supply electricity.

SSE said that while it welcomed the new scheme, it was concerned that individual auctions may be too small in order to allow offshore wind to be commercial. It said it wanted a separate category for offshore wind to provide more certainty.

Once built, the company estimates the wind farm would support 60 full-time maintenance jobs out of a service base in either Wicklow Port or Arklow Harbour.

"In addition, the development would support companies in the supply chain, including vessel services, water and fuel, technical inputs, and loading and unloading of project cargoes, and would operate out of the new service base," SSE said.

The plans emerge alongside a new paper on Irish offshore wind from energy consultants Cornwall Insight Ireland, which said that, in their view, Ireland has begun to lag behind other European countries. "Ireland has some of Europe's best wind resource, but to date offshore wind deployment has lagged well behind other markets due to a lack of strong policy support," the report said.

"For a generation we have seen some of the world's best offshore wind energy resources go unused. While other countries have forged ahead, using offshore wind energy as a core part of their transition to low-carbon economies, Ireland has fallen behind."

Irish Independent

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