Ireland selected as EU offshore wind testing site

Ireland has been selected as the location for a European funded testing site for offshore 'floating' wind farms, which are seen as a cheaper and more efficient way of generating renewable energy from wind.

The €31m EU-funded project will see a floating wind turbine - which sees a turbine mounted on a floating structure, rather than being fixed into the ground - established off the Mayo coast near Belmullet.

The test site is owned by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) and the project is being led by the Orkney Islands-based European Marine Energy Centre in partnership with the SEAI and various organisations across north-west Europe.

The test project is expected to be up and running, depending on planning permission, by 2022.

The west coast of Ireland was selected as the test site due to its harsh offshore conditions. If successful, it is envisaged that floating wind farms can be used in virtually any deep-water environment around the world.

Floating wind farms are seen as a potential breakthrough in boosting the potential of wind as a viable source of renewable energy by making it cheaper and easier to install offshore wind farms more or less anywhere. Fixed offshore wind farms are hampered by deep waters and are only suitable for water up to 50 metres deep.

Meanwhile, State-backed wind farm operator Greencoat Renewables has raised almost €148m from a share placing. The company will use the proceeds to pay down debt and fund further acquisitions.

"The net proceeds of the placing will enable us to execute further value accretive acquisitions in our pipeline in Ireland, where we continue to see an exciting aggregation opportunity in the secondary wind market," said chairman Rónán Murphy.

Earlier this month, Greencoat - which is solely focused on onshore wind farms - said it is closing in on a €76m project acquisition and said it has more deals in the pipeline. All of the targeted acquisitions relate to already built operational onshore Irish wind farms.

The company, which is part-owned by the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, paid more than €280m last autumn for the bulk of the wind farm assets owned by State-backed forestry company Coillte.

Greencoat's investment strategy restricts it from buying non-onshore Irish assets until July of this year. The company is, however, interested in buying assets in continental Europe after that date; with Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Finland countries on its radar.

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