The Climate Action Plan and the Programme for Government have committed Ireland to meeting 70 per cent of its electricity needs with renewable energy by 2030. This equates to the delivery of 5GW from offshore wind. To set us on the road to achieving that target they have also committed an interim target of 1GW of offshore wind by 2025, just four years away.
Offshore wind has many benefits, for climate, the economy, for communities, for the supply chain and for jobs. It is estimated that offshore wind energy could create 2,500 jobs over the next ten years and attract over €42 billion in lifetime investment.
For this to become a reality, some key challenges must be overcome not least in relation to developing and nurturing the local supply chain as well as creating valuable education and training opportunities to ensure a skilled workforce is ready to operate Irish offshore wind farms.
SSE Renewables is the leading developer, owner and operator of renewable energy in Britain and Ireland. The company holds the largest portfolio of operational, in-construction and in-development renewables sites and projects across Britain and Ireland at over 15GW, comprising offshore wind, onshore wind and hydro energy.
This includes two operational offshore wind farms in Britain, including the 588MW Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Caithness in Scotland, currently the fourth largest offshore wind farm in the world. As the largest developer, owner, and operator of Irish onshore wind energy and now, SSE Renewables is ready to drive the domestic offshore wind industry to flourish.
James O’Hara project manager for Arklow Bank Wind Park Phase 2 says that his company is ready to deliver for Ireland. “We have seen at first hand how offshore wind can transform and reinvigorate ailing coastal communities. Wick which is home to Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm’s onshore operations is case in point here – where the majority of up to 90 operational roles are held by local people”
“We are currently constructing the world’s largest offshore wind farm – Dogger Bank Wind Farm off the North East coast of England, a project which is already supporting 2,500 high-value jobs including manufacturing roles.”
“We want this for Ireland and we’re ready to deliver. We believe that Ireland is perfectly positioned to become an attractive market for offshore wind investors, but these opportunities must be fully capitalised on.”
By establishing a local indigenous supply chain, Irish companies will be in a position to develop the skills and experience needed to compete in a global market and maximise the national economic gain.
Enterprise Ireland has undertaken a supply chain mapping exercise that demonstrates the potential to supply the offshore wind industry.
According to Liam Curran, senior technologist, Enterprise Ireland: “The importance of the supply chain is evident through the partnerships that SSE Renewables have established during the Arklow Bank Wind Park project. As part of the process, companies get to know each other and their respective strengths, they identify areas where they can work together and supplement each other’s offers. This approach will help current and potential offshore windfarms like Arklow Bank Wind Park.”
SSE Renewables is ready to bring its world-leading excellence in offshore wind energy to Irish waters with plans to deliver 2GW of offshore wind energy in the Irish Sea and Celtic Sea by 2030, including the 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coast of Co Wicklow, helping create local jobs.
Already supporting the existing offshore supply chain, the 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park Phase 2 will be located 6km to 13km off the coast of Arklow, Co Wicklow. Once operational, the wind park will power almost 450,000 homes annually and offset 463,000kg of CO2 each year.
SSE Renewables will invest up to €2 billion to deliver the project, which will help meet the nation’s interim renewable energy target of 1GW of offshore wind by the mid-point of the decade (2025). In turn, the project will decarbonise our environment by 1 per cent annually, making a significant contribution to the annual 7 per cent carbon reduction targets committed to in the Programme for Government.
Wicklow company AlphaMarine has been working with SSE Renewables for the past two years and commercial director Tim Greenwood says that this partnership reflects the capabilities of the Irish supply chain.
“As part of phase 2 of the project, our team of experts worked with SSE Renewables to undertake the bathymetric survey, which captured seabed conditions in high resolution format, across the site. The expertise and knowledge provided by our team highlights the capabilities of the Irish supply chain in supporting the emerging offshore wind sector in Ireland. As a local maritime services provider we are immersed into this project as a partner due to the ongoing requirement of engineering and design works for the project.”
Employment is one of the greatest benefits offshore wind developments can bring to any single community, but without adequate education and training, the local workforce could be overlooked in favour of better-skilled candidates.
Offshore wind development plans along the eastern and southern coasts reinforce the belief that the region is perfectly positioned to become a Centre of Excellence for the industry, but this can only be done if the right education and training opportunities are made available.
There is an awareness of the skills gap here and Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, has committed to supporting the development of suitable training courses.
“The establishment of a Technical University for the South East along with the expansion of local FE colleges such as the Bray Institute for Further Education are key priorities for me to ensure Co Wicklow is prepared for the jobs of the future such as the Renewable Energy Sector,” the minister said.
The development of training opportunities the minister references, as well as strategic investment in Irish port and support for suppliers seeking to develop skills and expertise must all be delivered in order to ensure that Ireland can capitalise on the huge opportunities that offshore wind is poised to create.