ESB makes first Irish offshore wind farm investment

ESB makes first Irish offshore wind farm investment
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The ESB has entered an agreement to co-develop two planned offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea, marking its first such investment in Ireland.

The State-owned utility has agreed to buy a stake of up to 35% in the Oriel wind farm, off the coast at Dundalk. The ESB made its first offshore wind farm investment last year, buying a 12.5% stake in the Galloper project off the south-east coast of England.

Belgian wind farm developer Parkwind is behind the Oriel project and will lead it from its Dublin office.

Oriel will have a capacity of up to 330 megawatts and will generate enough energy to power around 280,000 homes across Louth and Meath.

Meanwhile, Parkwind will also invest in a stake of up to 35% in the planned Clogherhead wind farm project, adjacent to Oriel, which is in the initial planning stages.

The ESB holds a foreshore licence to commence site investigations on that project, which is still in the initial planning stages but will have a 500-megawatt capacity.

"ESB is completely transforming the way we generate electricity, replacing high carbon generation with low carbon and renewable alternatives," said the utility's chief executive Pat O'Doherty.

He called the Oriel deal "a significant investment" by the ESB in the area of offshore wind, "which," Mr O'Doherty said, "we anticipate will account for the bulk of Ireland's future zero carbon electricity".

He said the ESB's collaboration with the likes of Parkwind "underscores our commitment to further involvement in the development and construction of offshore wind farms in both Ireland and the UK."

Currently, the Arklow Bank wind farm, located off the Wicklow coast, is Ireland's sole functioning offshore wind farm project; with most operators investing in onshore wind projects since its inception in 2002.

Environment Minister Richard Bruton said the ESB-Parkwind deal marks "a significant development" for Ireland's offshore wind industry.

"With a sea area almost ten times the size of its landmass, Ireland has very significant offshore wind capacity and this partnership is a testament to our potential in this area," he said.

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