Wind energy in Cork Harbour could be as transformative as the biopharmaceutical industry, placing the region among the vanguard of Europe's transition to sustainable economies.
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That is one of the conclusions of a major new report by a range of organisations and companies around Cork, who called for key policy changes within government, lest the region miss out on its potential as an "unparalleled hub for floating offshore wind energy in the Celtic Sea from 2025".
Firms such as Green Rebel Marine, Mainport, Doyle Shipping Group (DSG), Simply Blue Energy, DP Energy and the Port of Cork joined with Cork Chamber of Commerce and Cobh and Harbour Chamber to produce the Cork Harbour 2025: Ready to Float report.
"Offshore wind is leading the transformation of the global energy system, with a staggering growth rate of 19% — faster than any other industry," the report said.
"Cork Harbour is in the process of being transformed into an offshore renewables hub by the private sector, with circa €200m of investments and plans already underway," it said.
Cork can build on the maritime and energy infrastructure and capability that already exists, thereby positioning Cork Harbour as the de facto floating offshore wind hub in the Celtic Sea, its authors claimed.
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, it claimed.
"It is an imperative that the dockyard be open to service the pipeline of projects emanating from the Celtic Sea by 2025. The alternative is that port-related business will be forced to go elsewhere.
"Plans for the extension of the deepwater berth in Ringaskiddy could add significant capacity to the capabilities on offer in Cork Harbour in support of the nascent floating wind boom in the Celtic Sea."
Policy action is needed as a matter of priority if wind energy is to be as transformative as pharmaceuticals was in the 1970s, the authors said.
"This includes the designation of Cork Harbour as a strategic hub for offshore wind in the new National Development Plan (Ireland 2040); County Development Plan provisions for land use activities in support of offshore wind; and a Government decision to ensure that floating wind projects in the Celtic Sea are included in the Climate Action target of 5GW of offshore wind by 2030."
Chief executive of Cork Chamber, Conor Healy, said floating offshore wind is the economic opportunity of our generation. "The prospect exists for Cork Harbour to be the hub of a whole new industrial sector, something not seen since Ringaskiddy was designated as a cluster for pharmaceuticals by the IDA in the 1970s, with significant positive implications for the development of infrastructure and employment prospects in the region."