A newly proposed wind farm off the coast of Wexford would generate enough electricity to power one million homes. The Shelmalere Offshore Windfarm, which is still in the application stage, would consist of approximately 70 turbines each generating 14 megawatts to an onshore substation. A foreshore license application for the development has been submitted by Cork-based company DP Energy and, should it be successful, the project would progress to the planning stage sometime in 2023.
Speaking at the monthly meeting of the Rosslare Municipal District (RMD), Yvonne Cronin Stakeholder Liaison Manager at DP Energy said the expectation was that construction on the project would not begin until 2027 with the turbines “in the ground and spinning” by 2030-31.
Address the council, Ms Cronin said DP Energy, in partnership with Iberdrola Ireland, had submitted a foreshore license application for permission to do survey work off the coast of Wexford with a view to developing the windfarm. “We are committed to combatting climate change in a sustainable and socially responsible way,” she said. “And we are committed to helping Ireland reach its target of 70 per cent energy from renewable sources by 2030 and becoming net zero by 2050.”
A decision on the application is expected by March of next year and should it be successful, Ms Cronin said DP Energy would “investigate the seabed around this area. We hope to run a cable ashore somewhere along the coast. We’re looking at potential landfill sites at the moment, we’ve identified a few but we have to hone it down, depending on where the cable comes ashore that will be where we do the surveys. At the moment we’re purely looking for permission to do the surveys.”
The proposed site is 289km sq with the distance to the shore at its nearest point 8.5km. Public consultation on the project opened on October 29 and will last until November 27 with all interested parties invited to submit their views on the project. Chief among those parties are the fishermen of Wexford, some of whom have already met with Ms Cronin and her liaison officers.
“Our main stakeholder and one of the stakeholders we’re affecting are the fishermen in the area,” said Ms Cronin. “We have been engaging with the fishermen, most of them are whelk fishermen, we’ve had peer meetings with them and will be emailing them to let them know this consultation is going ahead.”
Following Ms Cronin’s presentation, cathaoirleach for the RMD Councillor Jim Moore asked who DP Energy had spoken to within the fishing industry.
“We have had peer meetings with all of the existing fishermen in the area,” replied Ms Cronin. “We had a series of meetings in June and July in Kilmore Quay, Arklow, Wicklow, Courtown, and Wexford town, we met 54 fishermen and took all of their questions and inputs. We’ve tried to reach out to every fisherman on the east coast to make sure that, at the very least, they’re aware of what we’re doing. The worst thing we could do is start annoying the fishermen but it’s inevitable that during the surveys we’ll have to ask some of the potters to move their pots.”
Councillor Jim Codd had a number of queries regarding the windfarm and the potential displacement of whelk fishermen across the affected region. “How big an area will the fishermen lose in square miles?” he asked. “How close to the windmills can they fish? Will they be reimbursed? I would push for a greater deal of consultation with fishermen because if there’s one industry in this country that’s been under fire it’s the fishing industry. I welcome the whole idea, but I’d like to know clearly in pounds, shillings and pence how this is going to affect the fishermen?”
Keen to ensure there is as little disruption to local industries as possible, Ms Cronin said that when the surveys are being carried out she and her team will liaise with fishermen and try to work within their schedule. She also confirmed discussions had taken place regarding compensation.
“It wouldn’t make sense for us to ask a fishermen to move his pots and stop fishing without reimbursing them,” she said. “There will be a model of compensation, we have to try and work with the fishermen to try and come up with a model. Hopefully we can work together, they can come in and tell us what dates are best to do the surveys. But we will compensate them for loss of earnings. But if those fishermen are moving their pots there’s potential for them to displace other fishermen, It’s quite a complicated situation and we have to talk specifically to each fisherman and find out how they’re being affected. This is something we take very seriously, we don’t want to railroad anyone out of the way, but anyone we displace we will compensate.”
Looking to the future and the potential completion of this project, Cllr Codd then asked how it would affect those fishing in these areas in the long-term and whether they would be able to continue their work when the turbines were installed.
“It depends on the type of fishing how close you can go,” replied Ms Cronin. “We have a policy where we’re not going to exclude fishermen from the area; during construction there will be an exclusion zone of 500m but that’s for health and safety reasons. Trawling probably won’t be a good fishing method to do inside the wind farm area, but it’s up to the fishermen, we won’t be excluding them, but it depends on the type of fishing. We won’t exclude any fishermen from the wind farm except during construction, once constructed DP Energy do not envisage excluding any fishermen from the windfarm.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Ger Carthy voiced his concerns regarding the windfarm and said any potential development had to take into consideration the needs of local fisheries. “I welcome anything which benefits the environment but this can’t be developed at the detriment of a fishing industry which is already under attack from all angles. This windfarm needs to be done in conjunction and agreement with the fisherman, they need to be supported throughout this process with no loss to their livelihoods.”
A decision on the foreshore license application for the Shelmalere Offshore Windfarm is expected to be made in Q1 2022.