With Ireland setting itself the ambitious goal of developing 5,000 MW of offshore wind energy by the end of the decade, ports and harbours around the country are putting in place plans and infrastructure that will allow them to help deliver, assemble and service the various pieces of infrastructure required.
Onshore wind farms are already a common sight on Irish hills and mountains and they will be joined shortly by the rapid growth of solar farms. However offshore wind is seen as one of the fastest-growing industries that will provide a significant portion of the power required for the country to become completely carbon neutral by 2050.
To meet the goal of 5,000MW by 2030, up to ten separate wind farms will be needed. Plans have been announced or foreshore applications lodged for a number of floating wind farms off the eastern, southern and west coasts.
Last week the Government published the National Marine Planning Framework establishing a planning system for these projects. However, port companies around the country are gearing up for the extensive support industry that will be needed and have been joined by a growing number of new firms set up in anticipation of the growing industry.
A report published last year stated that wind energy off the Cork coast could be as transformative as the biopharmaceutical industry for the region.
A number of companies involved in shipping and offshore wind development including Green Rebel Marine, Mainport, Doyle Shipping Group (DSG), Simply Blue Energy, DP Energy joined with the Port of Cork, the Cork Chamber of Commerce and Cobh and Harbour Chamber to produce the Cork Harbour 2025: Ready to Float report.
"Cork Harbour is perfectly positioned right now to support the development of offshore wind," the report states. "Gearing-up for large-scale assembly and installation of offshore wind farms can be achieved via DSG’s plans to redevelop Cork Dockyard. The redevelopment of Cork Dockyard as a clean, green facility, servicing the offshore wind sector, is a progressive plan for Cork Harbour, potentially creating up to 200 direct long-term jobs alone."
Not since the 1970s has such an opportunity been handed to the region, it claimed.
"The geostrategic advantages of Cork Harbour, the second-largest natural harbour in the world, means it is ideally placed to seize the benefits of new floating offshore wind projects, while also supporting bottom-fixed projects. Offshore wind development requires ports with the right mix of water depths, quayside bearing capacity, landbanks, cranage, vessels, berthage, and transport links."
Under a long-term master plan, Rosslare Port is to undergo a major transformation with operators Iarnród Éireann planning to invest €30m in one of the state's key transport hubs.
Last year, Dutch company XELLZ announced that it is to establish an offshore wind supply base adjacent to Rosslare Europort. The firm has secured approximately 200,000 sqm of land which will be divided into zones and the entire area will be known as Rosslare Europort Business Park (EBP).
Through its offshore services subsidiary 24shore and XELLZ Ireland, the Dutch company will establish an offshore wind supply base there to serve and support future offshore wind farms, bringing new energy to the region.
The aim is to see Rosslare Europort become a hub for the delivery of turbines and other components for wind farm developments in the Irish and Celtic Sea, and will boost the port and the economy through the increased shipping resulting, and employment generated.
The largest port on Ireland's west coast, Shannon Foynes said it has the potential to tap into the almost 70GW of power that could be generated off the western seaboard.
In December the port company published a rpeort it commissioned that identifies the potential to create up to 20,000 jobs in manufacturing and a further 10,000 industry jobs by 2050 through staging, installation, operations and maintenance of wind farms.
The study, carried out by consultants Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions, states that the Shannon Estuary is best placed to service the future offshore floating wind market.
"The first Offshore Wind Farm sites in Ireland were all situated on the east coast, as they have fixed foundations. However, as the offshore floating wind technology becomes more efficient and the associated supply chain develops, the west coast of Ireland will become much more favourable. “The total potential capacity on the West coast dwarfs the East coast opportunity,” the report states.
The report proposes that Shannon Foynes identifies a total of 1,200 hectares on the Shannon Estuary for wind farm device and component manufacture and assembly.