Windfarms set for boost as Ireland takes place in offshore energy pact

Ireland will, today, sign up to an international pact to foster cross-border co-operation in the development of an offshore renewable energy sector in northern Europe.

The formal signing of the agreement — a significant step in developing a wind-energy policy in this country — will take place on the fringes of the latest Transport, Telecommunications and Energy (TTE) Council meeting in Brussels. 

Ireland will join Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Luxembourg in the initiative.

The aim is to grow the use of renewable energy in northern Europe and boost affordable energy supply from offshore outlets, particularly windfarms. 

It should also prompt more multi-country co-operation and reduce the cost of wind turbines. 

The EU says it will deliver “further integration and increased efficiency of wholesale electricity markets in the longer term, contributing to a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the average wholesale price spreads, and enhanced security of supply in the region.”

The EU sees offshore renewables as key to the achievement of its goals of reducing gas emissions by 80%-95%, in 2050, compared to 1990. Ireland is likely to fall short of its target of meeting 16% of its total energy needs from renewable sources, by 2020, and will face a challenge to meet its 2030 target of 27%, if the Government doesn’t put in place a definitive policy around renewable energy, according to the National Offshore Wind Energy Association (NOW Ireland).

NOW Ireland council member, Aidan Forde, said Ireland’s inclusion in the North Seas countries’ energy pact is welcome news, in that Ireland needs to become “actively and deeply involved” in such initiatives. He said that without harnessing the 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind power in the Irish Sea, there is “no way” Ireland will reach its 2030 targets.

Mr Forde said that the new agreement should force the Government into developing real policy for the renewable-energy sector and help it to develop a route to market for energy produced by offshore wind farms. 

To this end, NOW Ireland has suggested that the State agree a set price, per kilowatt hour, with independent energy firms operating turbines in the Irish Sea, with either side making up the difference, depending on movement in wholesale electricity prices.

Meanwhile, energy storage group, Gaelectric, yesterday announced that it has reached financial close on a portfolio of five onshore wind farms in the North. 

Total senior debt of £67m (€86m) has been arranged through the London office of German bank, Nord/LB, to fund the five farms from construction to operation.

The portfolio consists of wind farms at Monnaboy, Cloonty, Inishative , Corby Knowe and Cregganconroe, with a total installed capacity of 51.5 megawatts.

Monnaboy is operational, with the remaining wind farms scheduled to be energised by the end of the year. The portfolio represents a capital investment of €96m. The majority of the senior debt has been advanced on an 18-year-term loan basis.

“These projects also represent a significant milestone towards our near-term goal of achieving around 400 megawatts of generating wind assets, on the island of Ireland, by 2017,” said the company’s chief operating officer, Barry Gavin.


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