Dublin Array Wind farm could generate electricity for 844,000 homes by 2028

The Dublin Array Offshore Windfarm project could see up to 50 wind turbines located offshore between Blackrock, South Dublin and Bray, County Wicklow by 2028.

Tom GalvinBray People

The Senior Development and Consents Manager for the Dublin Array Offshore Wind farm gave an extensive presentation to members of Bray Municipal District on the project which is being proposed for the Kish and Bray Banks.

Encompassing an area approximately 10 kilometres off the coastline of counties Dublin and Wicklow (roughly parallel to the coastline stretching between Bray and Blackrock, Co Dublin) the Dublin Array Offshore Wind farm project hopes to deliver 700–850MW of clean, renewable electricity through 39 to 50 turbines, Paul Kelly told councillors at this month’s meeting.

This could mean a reduction in Ireland’s carbon emissions by over 1.5m tonnes a year.

The wind farm is a joint venture between RWE Renewables Ireland and Irish company Saorgus Energy, with RWE leading the development. The Kish and Bray Banks are naturally occurring sandbanks which the east coast commercial shipping routes avoid due to the shallowness of the water, thereby presenting as a good location for any potential development.

Proximity to Dublin, which is a major electricity demand centre, means that the project could be a significant source of renewable electricity for the capital and the surrounding region. Dublin Array believes it will be able to generate enough energy to supply around 844,000 homes by 2028.

Given that by 2031, an additional 400,000 people will be living in the Greater Dublin Area, according to the latest Census data, this is a significant figure. There is also an increasing number of businesses, including technology companies and data centres, all creating a large and growing demand for electricity.

The project will also bring windespread economic benefits during construction and operation, with over 1,000 construction-phase jobs and 240 full-time jobs expected during the operational phase.

The final decision on the number of turbines will be informed by ongoing surveys and detailed design work. In the interim, Dublin Array was awarded its Maritime Area Consent (MAC) in December 2022. This is required for any proposed Irish offshore wind farm development to be able to seek planning permission.

Many factors are taken into consideration when identifying areas suitable for potential offshore wind farms. These include the availability of a good wind resource, proximity to areas of high electricity demand, and the absence of other constraints such as areas already leased by the State for other uses – international shipping routes, for example.

With annual average wind speeds of 9.7 metres per second at 100 metres above sea level, shallow waters with depths ranging from two to 30 metres and good soil conditions, the Kish and Bray Banks were identified as prime locations for the offshore wind farm.

The initial phase of work was undertaken by a consortium led by Saorgus Energy Ltd, a leading Irish renewable energy company. In March 2018, Innogy Renewables Ireland Ltd (a subsidiary of Innogy SE) entered a joint partnership with Saorgus to further develop the project. On July 1, 2020, Innogy became part of the RWE Group which is one of the world’s leading renewable energy companies.

RWE Renewables Ireland Limited, is leading on the development of Dublin Array with its partner, Saorgus Energy. RWE operates numerous offshore wind farms around the world, including Rhyl Flats (90 MW), Gwynt y Môr (576MW), Rampion (400 MW), Galloper (353 MW) and Triton Knoll (857 MW) in the UK, as well as Thornton Bank (325 MW) in Belgium, Nordsee One (332 MW) and Nordsee Ost (295 MW) in Germany.

Councillors were told that such wind farms require a significant amount of time and investment to complete the engineering and environmental studies necessary to optimise the design layout and select the type and number of turbines.

Since Saorgus Energy was granted the first two Foreshore Licences (to survey the site) in 2000, numerous technical, engineering, and environmental surveys and studies have been carried out on the Kish and Bray Banks to inform the site-specific design process.

Mr Kelly explained that there is both onshore and offshore works in the creation of an offshore wind farm. Turbines are erected on foundations and the offshore works also involve a lot of cabling. When the cables are approaching the shore, they remain underground, beneath the beach and cliffs, where they will connect with the onshore cables.

Councillors heard that the onshore construction works will comprise of a landfall at Shanganagh, in Shankill, South Dublin, with the laying of cables in two trenches and the construction of an onshore substation at Carrickmines. To inform the design of the onshore infrastructure a number of environmental studies, surveys, and assessments were undertaken.

Interestingly, six potential wrecks, which were previously uncharted, were identified during the geophysical survey conducted on behalf of Dublin Array in 2021. These include ‘The Loch Fergus’, an iron sailing ship that ran aground in Killiney Bay in 1899.

Councillors were told that Dublin Array is planning to introduce a significant community benefit fund in line with the Irish Government's offshore Renewable Support Scheme (RESS).

Regulations require renewable electricity projects to contribute €2 to the local community for every megawatt hour of electricity they generate. Based on a 500 megawatt (MW) wind farm operating at 45pc capacity over 15 years, that would raise €60m for the community.

If successful, Dublin Array will have the right to operate the marine space for 45 years.