Simon Coveney eyes offshore windfarms

Ireland has reached a point where large scale wind- farms are not acceptable to communities, according to Housing Minister Simon Coveney.

He said that offshore wind projects might be the more sustainable option in the future.

Speaking at a public meeting on the Government’s National Planning Framework at Athlone Institute of Technology, Co Westmeath, the minister said the Government will be investing a lot of money into energy infrastructure at sea.

“I think we are reaching a point where communities on land are struggling to accept many more large-scale windfarms and many of you will be in communities that would be very resistant to [windfarm] planning applications.

“Offshore wind energy is moving to being cost competitive,” he said.

“I think while wind on land is important, so too are the views of communities. It may be a lot easier to do this in significant scale in the future at sea rather than land, and also cost competitive.”

He cited the wave-test tank facilities in Cork Harbour and wave-testing facilities in Galway Bay and he spoke of plans for commercial-scale operations off the coast of Co Mayo.

Mr Coveney said that once the UK leaves the European Union, Ireland will be the third largest country in the EU in terms of size if our maritime resource as well as our land resources are counted.

“We are moving in the direction of wind at sea being cost competitive.

“Only last week I had a meeting with Statoil regarding what they are doing in Scotland, around the technology for floating wind turbines off Aberdeen and whether or not they could extend that research and that potential to Ireland as well. So it is happening and it will be a big part of this plan.”

Solar power will also have a role to play, but a “solar takeover” was unlikely, he told the audience.

“If every planned solar farm in Ireland was to materialise you’d have enough energy to power this country about three times over, but you’d also cover huge amounts of agriculture land,” he said.

“I think there will be some solar, particularly on poor agricultural land, and certainly on big agricultural and industrial buildings.”

However, he thought it was unlikely that solar energy would cover a lot of good agricultural land.

Speaking to the media, Mr Coveney said he and Natural Resources Minister Denis Naughten are continuing to work on new guidelines for windfarms.

“We need to put a new draft guideline in place. That will have to go for a stakeholder consultation for a period as required under European directives.

“There is a process in train and I hope that we will be able to publish those draft guidelines in the not too distant future.”

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