Energy company SSE Airtricity hopes to complete the expansion of Ireland's only operational offshore wind farm, and have it working at full capacity as a meaningful energy provider, by the early 2020s.
The small seven-turbine Arklow Bank wind farm, off the Wicklow coast, has been Ireland's only functioning offshore wind farm since its inception as a "demonstrator" project in 2004.
It was reported, last year, that SSE was looking to invest €2bn to transform Arklow Bank into a major project. Now the company has said that, subject to securing a Government-supported contract and grid connection, it can bring Arklow Bank from phase-2 construction through to first energy "within the early 2020s".
SSE has a foreshore lease providing consent for up to 200 wind turbines at the site, but has said advances in turbine technology over the past 15 years mean an installation of only 80-100 turbines would be needed to provide enough clean energy to power 420,000 homes and offset 640,000 tonnes of harmful carbon emissions per year.
SSE Ireland managing director Stephen Wheeler urged action from government, state agencies and industry representatives to oversee the development of the industry.
"We have a window of opportunity to fundamentally change the way we generate power in this country. Fifteen years ago, Ireland was a world leader in renewable energy, and I think it's about time we took back that title," he said.
Earlier this week, the ESB announced a joint-venture with Belgian wind farm developer Parkwind to develop two offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea.