Multinational oil and gas company Shell has agreed to take a 51pc stake in a joint venture to develop a floating wind farm off the Clare coast.
The deal with Simply Blue Group, a Cork-based “blue economy” company that seeks to replace fossil fuel use with ocean-derived energy, will see Shell investing in a project to build up to 1.35GW in wind capacity – enough to power one million homes.
The first phase of the project, called the Western Star venture, is targeting 300MW-450MW, with a bigger second phase of 700MW-900MW to follow.
The agreement is the second between Blue Energy and Shell after the two joined forces earlier this year on the Emerald Project off the south coast. “There is tremendous wind potential off the west coast of Ireland and Simply Blue Group are delighted to partner once again with Shell to jointly develop the Western Star project,” said Hugh Kelly, co-founder of Simply Blue.
“The project will utilise floating offshore wind technology to produce zero-carbon electricity and will greatly help Ireland progress towards a green energy future with domestically sourced sustainable electricity delivering both environmental and economic benefits to the entire country.”
The move also comes just two weeks after Norwegian energy company Equinor, formerly Statoil, pulled out of its two-year partnership with ESB to develop offshore wind electricity generation capacity.
Equinor was also planning to build a 1.5GW floating windfarm off the Clare and Kerry coast near Moneypoint but halted the project after a strategic review.
Floating wind farms can be placed in deeper waters further offshore than fixed wind turbines, minimising their visual impact onshore while also capturing the energy from stronger winds, Simply Blue said.
The Western Star venture will be located at least 35km off the Clare coast.
The two offshore wind projects with Simply Blue represent a major change of profile for Shell in Ireland.
The company took over the ownership and operation of the controversial Corrib gas project in 2002, garnering years of negative publicity.
That project involved extracting natural gas from the offshore Corrib gas field and bringing it ashore via a pipeline in Co Mayo.
Shell said on Monday it would scrap its dual share structure and move its head office to Britain from the Netherlands, pushed away by Dutch taxes and facing climate pressure in court as it shifts from oil and gas.
The company had long faced questions from investors about its dual structure, with stock market listings in London and Amsterdam, and had recently been hit by a Dutch court order over its climate targets.
Monday’s move follows a major overhaul Shell completed this summer as part of its strategy to shift away from oil and gas to renewables and low-carbon energy. The overhaul included thousands of job cuts around the world.
In May, a Dutch court ordered Shell to deepen its planned greenhouse gas emission cuts in order to align with the Paris climate deal which aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Shell has said it would appeal.
(Additional reporting by Reuters)