Editorial: As plans for wind power move forward, we call for scale, ambition – and energy

It's no simple task to build an offshore wind farm. Photo: Getty© Getty Images/iStockphoto


Ireland’s maritime area is more than seven times the size of the country’s landmass, with ideal wind conditions. To take advantage of this tremendous natural resource, the Government is developing an offshore wind energy sector, in line with its 2019 Climate Action Plan.

In May 2020 this saw project status announced for seven offshore renewable energy projects. Last week EirGrid announced the successful bids in the country’s first ever auction to generate electricity from offshore wind.

The bidders plan developments mostly along the east coast, but the deeper water potential off the west coast also has vast potential.

The relevant Departments of Housing and Environment and Climate Action must combine to ensure that those identifying areas of greatest potential have everything required. While wind energy is already the country’s largest contributing resource of renewable energy, with enormous further potential, commitment to and certainty within the industry is needed.

For all the talk about Ireland’s significant geographical advantages for offshore energy, the country still lags well behind advances in this area elsewhere around the world. This, in turn, is giving rise to questions over how committed the Government is to grow the sector in Ireland. Arguably, we are well behind where we should be.

Wind energy provides a clean and sustainable solution, and is one of many other measures which will be required to meet the country’s energy targets and needs.

However, it is important that certainty around policy and planning frameworks, as well as funding and supporting infrastructure commitments be provided. There are significant start-up costs, and firms in this new industry have reported difficulty in accessing finance.

Changing approach in the middle of project development will cost time, prolong the country’s dependency on imported fossil fuels and lock in more carbon emissions.

Further efforts will also be required to improve public acceptance of offshore wind farms, to help the country meet its renewable energy obligations. If Government is serious about this, there will have to be wider engagement and support for those taking risks to develop the sector.

The Government needs to work more closely with the industry to try and keep 2030 emission targets alive.

In 2020, wind provided over 86pc of Ireland’s renewable electricity and 36pc of the country’s total electricity demand. It is suggested that the country’s entire domestic electricity requirements from offshore wind will be met early in the next decade.

The potential of wind energy also includes major opportunities for the development of associated transmission technologies and services, as well as products such as hydrogen and ammonia for energy storage.

Indeed, Ireland can be a net contributor to the European energy sector. Energy security of supply and affordability is more urgent than ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

An article published in this newspaper recently recalled how Ireland led the world in the 1920s with the development of Ardnacrusha, which by 1935 provided 80pc of the country’s energy needs. The scale and ambition of such a plan will be required to achieve the full potential of Ireland’s offshore wind resource.