County in line for 60 wind farm jobs
Wicklow and Arklow under assessment for onshore base
Wicklow Port and Arklow Harbour are being assessed by SSE, the developer of the proposed Arklow Bank Wind Park, as possible locations for a future onshore service base for the offshore wind energy project.
Specialist Irish geotechnical engineering and marine consultancy Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions (GDG) Ltd. has been appointed by SSE to assess the suitability of Wicklow Port and Arklow Harbour as possible locations for an onshore base which could create 60 full-time jobs.
GDG was originally established in Co Wicklow eight years ago and has substantial expertise in offshore wind engineering, having worked on projects across Europe.
SSE is currently progressing plans to develop the Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coastline of Co Wicklow. When fully completed the new offshore wind farm, which is consented to a minimum installed capacity of 520MW, will be capable of generating enough renewable electricity to power around half a million homes each year.
The project will require a land-based hub for servicing and maintaining the offshore wind farm, and as a base for around 60 full-time employees who will be recruited to work on its operation and maintenance.
In addition, the development will support various companies across the supply chain, including those involved in vessel services, fuel, technical inputs, and loading and unloading of project cargoes.
The development of a new service base and associated long-term employment represents an opportunity for significant new investment and ongoing economic activity at existing maritime facilities in Co Wicklow.
The site selection process involves an engineering appraisal of individual port-side facilities in both Arklow and Wicklow against a set of constraints and development requirements identified by SSE and wind turbine suppliers.
The study is currently under way and is considering the marine infrastructure required for the project, such as the type and number of crew transfer vessels necessary to support the wind farm, and the layout and requirements of any permanent quayside operations buildings.
It is anticipated the study will be completed in the coming months, with a preferred location in either Wicklow or Arklow selected by summer.
Development plans for the new operations and maintenance facility will be subject to the normal planning application and consultation process.
'At SSE, we know the positive impacts that offshore wind projects can deliver to coastal communities. In north-east Scotland, where we are currently developing the 588MW Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm in the Moray Firth, we have seen the creation of a major new operations base in nearby Wick Harbour to support the wind farm. This has involved the renovation of existing harbour buildings and facilities, out of which 90 local and full-time employees will be based to support the wind farm when completed,' said Arklow Bank Wind Park project manager James O'Hara.
Mr O'Hara said that the company is currently engaging with community representatives in Arklow and Wicklow in order to have 'full regard for the technical requirements of the proposed base, as well as local stakeholder interests'.
'Ultimately, this study will identify the optimum location for the Operations and Maintenance facility. Our ambition, however, is that regardless of the final location of the service base, the overall delivery of our Arklow Bank Wind Park project will bring long-term economic and employment benefits to coastal communities in both towns for many years to come,' he said.