Ireland has some of the best offshore wind resources in Europe, but only 25 MW of installed capacity, and it is at risk of failing to live up to its potential, a new report has warned.
Large-scale deployment has lagged behind other markets owing to the lack of strong policy support, research from Cornwall Insight Ireland, in partnership with the UK’s Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, law firm Pinsent Masons and the Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA), found.
However, new energy policy and market frameworks raise the prospect of increased support and investment in Irish offshore wind.
The report said that the landscape for offshore wind in Ireland was evolving. Ireland must complete a draft National Energy and Climate plan by the end of 2018 under EU-wide targets for renewable energy, and the sector should be boosted by cost reductions driven by other markets.
However, the report added that the new Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) wholesale market arrangements, which start on October 1, would fundamentally alter the risk and reward dynamic for all generators, particularly wind developers.
However, the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS) could give offshore wind projects access to stable revenues via contract for difference (CfD) mechanisms but lacks detail.
Offshore wind could make up a significant proportion of Ireland’s energy mix by 2030, but only if the country is an attractive environment for investors.
The report suggested that the current policy would support a maximum of 2,400 MW of offshore wind by 2030, against a potential capacity of 4,500 MW that could be easily developed.
Attracting sufficient investment will require “a stable, coherent and long-term framework to establish a viable offshore wind sector, or a sector where returns are likely to be attractive enough to warrant a less strategic, more transactional approach,” the report says.
It suggests the government enacts its Maritime Area and Foreshore Bill and Enduring Connection Policy to resolve the longer-term outlook for offshore wind, as well as finalising details of its renewable energy auction rules.
The UK’s SSE said that it planned to spend up to 2 billion euros (US$2.3 billion) to expand its Arklow Bank wind farm, Ireland’s only offshore wind farm, which has just seven turbines.
The company hopes to install around 100 turbines with a capacity of at least 520 MW.
However, it says that the project depends on “key regulatory steps, including securing a grid connection offer and a government-backed energy contract under the new renewable electricity support scheme.”