Locations of four proposed new offshore wind farms revealed amid €9bn investment in wind energy

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Caroline O'Doherty, Environment Correspondent

The locations of the first offshore wind farms in 20 years have been revealed after the projects won lucrative electricity supply contracts in the country’s first offshore wind auction.

The four winning projects are set for sites off Dublin Bay, north County Dublin, north Wicklow and Galway in a collective investment worth an estimated €9 billion.

They still must secure planning permission and are set for a race to get their plans to An Bord Pleanála before the end of the year, with the possibility of challenges on environmental and other grounds.

If successful in that final hurdle, however, they are expected to be in operation and supplying more than a quarter of the country’s entire electricity needs by 2030.

Success in the auction secured the four projects 20-year contracts to provide electricity to the wholesale market at a state-guaranteed price of €86.05 per megawatt hour of power.

That’s less than half the €200 price charged on average during the energy crisis in 2022 and is also below the €110-130 prices of recent weeks.

The Government had set a maximum bid price of €150 so getting the firms to bid at the average price of €86 is being hailed as a win for consumers.

Officials have suggested it could mean potential collective savings on bills running to hundreds of millions of euro a year.

Under the guarantee, if the wholesale market dips below €86.05, the firms will get a top-up payment from the state but any time the wholesale market pays more than €86.05, they will give the excess to the state.

The four winning projects vary in size and spread but are expecting to use turbines up to 320 metres high, the tallest in use in the world today.

One is the North Irish Sea Array, A 500 megawatt (MW) project backed by Norwegian energy firm, Statkraft, which Is earmarked for a site stretching northwards from north Co Dublin.

It expects to need about 36 turbines beginning around 7km from shore.

The Dublin Array, an 824MW project from German company RWE, would put up to 50 turbines on the Kish and Bray Banks in Dublin Bay, roughly 10km out from Dun Laoghaire.

Codling Wind Park is the largest of the projects at 1,300MW capacity and needing up to 100 turbines.

It is a French-Norwegian project by ED and Fred. Olsen, that would stretch for 20km from Greystones to Wicklow, beginning about 13km from shore.

The Sceirdre Rocks 450MW wind farm would put about 20 turbines on a site roughly 5km from shore west of Connemara. It is backed by UK headquartered Corio Generation.

All the companies already have experience of deploying and operating offshore wind farms in the North Sea.

Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said the results of the auction were “hugely positive”.

“The results are further evidence of what many of us have known for a long time; that we, as a nation, can develop and produce enormous quantities of clean energy – securely and at low cost.”

Two other projects, the ESB-backed Oriel Wind Park proposed for off the coast of Co Louth and the SSE Renewables project earmarked for off the coast of Arklow, Co Wicklow, were unsuccessful.

They may still apply for planning permission but would have to find alternative contracts to supply directly to industry.

Today’s auction results are provisional as there is an appeals process. The final results are to be confirmed next month.