Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna are proposing the development of an offshore wind farm located in the Irish Sea, off the coast of counties Dublin and Wicklow. The proposed wind farm array study area is located approximately 12km off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow.
The proposed offshore wind development will be known as Réalt na Mara, and it is envisaged that the project could generate up to 1.6 Gigawatts (GW) of clean renewable electricity, enough to power 1.5 million Irish homes. The proposed development will also facilitate job creation, vastly reduce our reliance on imported oil and gas, and increase our security of electricity supply while helping Ireland become carbon neutral by 2050. Based on current project timelines it is envisaged that the project would be in commercial operation by 2030, with a lifespan of 25 to 30 years.
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The project team is carefully considering the foundation type selection with respect to the site conditions, environmental impact, supply chain capability, project programme and levelised cost of energy.
Based on the available information, different foundation types have been assessed to determine their feasibility and to demonstrate the suitability of the proposed Réalt na Mara Offshore Wind study area for offshore wind development using bottom-fixed technology.
Once the offshore survey campaigns are undertaken and new site-specific geophysical and geotechnical information becomes available, closing the existing gaps on the site information, the most suitable wind turbine foundation type will be selected.
The project is aiming to be progressed under the new Maritime Area Planning Act 2021 which involves a single consent principle: one State consent (Maritime Area Consent) to enable occupation of the Maritime Area and one development consent (planning permission), with a single environmental assessment covering the onshore and offshore aspects of the project under the Planning and Development Act 2000.
These permissions will be required for the construction of the proposed Réalt na Mara Offshore Wind project. As part of this consenting process an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is being undertaken, and an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) will be prepared to assess impacts and propose mitigation where appropriate to minimise impacts to the receiving environment.
The EIA Scoping phase of the project is currently underway. Scoping enables the content and extent of environmental information that will be included in the future EIAR of the project to be determined. Our EIA Scoping involves a number of activities, including:
Offshore and onshore environmental considerations during our EIA Scoping include:
The process of selecting the right location for the array, cable and onshore elements of the project involves a rigorous evaluation process. We are currently undertaking an assessment of environmental and consenting constraints. This assessment will include the detailed mapping of constraints to inform the development of cable corridor options.
Our environmental and engineering teams are working closely together to develop export cable corridors which avoid impacts on sensitive habitats and species including protected sites. We consider it critical to identify environmental constraints at this stage in the project, this is to ensure the project is designed with minimal impact on the surrounding environment.
Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna are currently undertaking a landfall assessment to identify potential sites to bring the submarine cables onshore and continue onward routing inland to a connection with the existing electricity grid. The assessment is an exercise that identifies potential sites which are considered to best balance impacts on the environment and the local community with technical and engineering feasibility. For the environmental and consenting elements of the project, the following criteria is considered as part of the landfall assessment:
Following the identification of potential landfall sites, these sites will be presented for discussion as part of the community consultation process with the community, decision maker, statutory bodies and relevant stakeholders. Future preferred landfall sites, corridor/s and routes will be presented as part of the consultation process for comments and input.
Since September 2021, Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna have been receiving data from Digital Aerial Surveys (DAS) which is looking at the presence of birds, marine mammals and other large marine animals present in the proposed offshore wind farm location. The purpose of these surveys is to provide the baseline characteristics of the area including the proposed wind farm site and surrounding area to inform the future Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Appropriate Assessment (AA).
The survey design chosen, comprised a grid-based design which gives the best possible precision when estimating species abundance and density and this in turn gives added confidence to regulators and stakeholders on the conclusions based on this data.
The camera system captures images at 1.5cm Ground Sampling Distance (GSD), this ultra-high resolution allows for most accurate species identification. See below image of a Gannet (Marine Bird), taken from a high resolution camera during our recent aerial survey work. From these high resolution digital still images we are able to provide information on:
All this data is used to provide monthly, 6-monthly and annual reports which will feed into the future EIA and AA.
We have already begun collecting ecological data in order to inform the project design and location. This includes surveys of overwintering birds in intertidal habitats. This is important to inform the location of cable landfall site(s) and selection of appropriate construction methodologies to limit potential impact to birds or the habitat they use for feeding over winter.
We have also begun a series of Preliminary Ecological Appraisals of potential cable routes to identify any sensitivities and to inform future surveys and cable routes.
The Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) will assume responsibility for issuing foreshore licences from the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage in early 2023. Likewise, the authority will also be empowered to issue Maritime Area Consents (equivalent to foreshore leases). It is anticipated that we will submit a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) application to MARA in 2023.
Anyone who wants to apply for planning permission for a development, like an offshore wind farm, will need to get a MAC first but getting one does not mean a project will automatically get planning permission. Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna intend to apply to An Bord Pleanála for full planning permission to build the proposed Réalt na Mara Offshore Wind project. Members of the public will have the right to be consulted about the proposal.
The Foreshore Licence Application (FLA) for the proposed Réalt na Mara Offshore Wind project was validated by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage in Q4 2022. The Department will now assess the application for the potential award of the licence. If successful, it will allow the Réalt na Mara project team to undertake surveys over the course of five years. Awarding of the Foreshore Licence is expected in 2023.
Ocean Winds (OW) is the result of a 2019 Joint Venture between EDP Renewables (EDPR) and ENGIE, two global leaders in the renewable and offshore energy industry. With over a decade’s experience in the offshore sector, and the combined expertise of both EDPR and ENGIE, Ocean Winds will bring a history of project deliverability and cost reduction to the emerging Irish offshore wind industry.
When EDP and ENGIE combined their offshore wind assets and project pipeline to create OW in 2019, the company had a total of 1.5 GW under construction and 4.0 GW under development; OW has been adding rapidly to that portfolio and is now on a trajectory to reach the 2025 target of 5 to 7 GW of projects in operation, or construction, and 5 to 10 GW under advanced development. In 2022, OW’s offshore wind gross capacity already operating, contracted or with grid connection rights granted reaches 16.6 GW.
OW, headquartered in Madrid, is currently present in 8 countries, and primarily targets markets in Europe, the United-States and selected parts of Asia, from where most of the growth is expected to come.
Discover more: www.oceanwinds.com
Bord na Móna is a renewable energy and environmental services company, focused on delivering climate solutions and sustainable energy security for Ireland. We do this through renewable power generation, recycling, waste management, peatland restoration and biodiversity conservation.
Bord na Móna, a semi-state company, was established in 1934, in response to a national energy emergency, to develop the peatlands of Ireland, provide economic benefit for midland communities, and achieve security of energy supply. Transformed for the climate crisis today, Bord na Móna has transitioned its operations and diversified its services, through its Brown-to-Green strategy, to become Ireland’s leading climate solutions company.
Bord na Móna employs approximately 1,500 people and manages a land holding of over 80,000 hectares across the midlands of Ireland. With expertise and experience across a variety of climate solutions, including renewables, energy, carbon storage and sequestration and waste management, through various initiatives, including the Accelerate Green Programme, Bord na Móna is supporting local communities and businesses with Ireland’s transition to a green economy.
With a strategic ten-year ambition to invest over €1.6bn in renewable energy infrastructure and generating assets, including wind, solar, hydrogen, biomass and biogas, Bord na Móna is developing sustainable solutions that will lead Ireland towards a climate neutral future and help ensure the State delivers on its commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
Discover more: www.bordnamona.ie
Ireland has a unique opportunity to develop a substantial and economically viable offshore wind industry with a maritime area approximately seven times its landmass, as well as optimum geographic and climatic conditions. The Irish Government has indicated its intention to reach the ambitious target of achieving 5GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2030.
Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna are interested in helping Ireland to achieve its 2030 and wider Net Zero ambitions through Réalt na Mara. We believe that our background, expertise, strength and experience in delivering offshore wind projects will support the Irish economy to make best use of one of its most abundant resources.
Ocean Winds and Bord na Móna conducted initial site selection exercise to identify the optimal site for the development of the Réalt na Mara project. The chosen site, off the coast of Dublin and Wicklow, was selected for several reasons, including:
– Grid Capacity
– Proximity to the demand
– Environmental Sensitivity
– Wind Resource
– Fishing Density
– Water Depth
A combination of geophysical, geotechnical, metocean and environmental studies will be carried out to assess to feasibility of the proposed site. The surveys will investigate the marine environment and the seabed to identify any technical and environmental constraints and determine the suitability of the site to ensure the safety and performance of the proposed development.
Environmental studies, including ecological and archaeological surveys, will also form part of determining the sites suitability. The data gathered through these surveys will feed into the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process which will require the project team to identify any potential impacts on the receiving environment and if identified, implement appropriate mitigation measures in place. An Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) will be prepared and submitted to the Planning Authority.
Subject to the award of a Foreshore licence expected in Q1 2023, as well as favourable weather conditions, Réalt na Mara proposes a survey works schedule that will be phased over 5 years. The timing of site investigations is dependent on several factors, including weather, tidal flows, the availability of survey vessels and crucially, a successful foreshore licence application.
Ecological studies will form a significant part of the surveys and investigations stage of Réalt na Mara. We will be required to submit an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) as part of the planning application to the competent authority for the project. In the EIAR, we will have to demonstrate that we have a thorough understanding of the human and marine environment and cultural heritage at the proposed site, identify any possible impacts the project may have and indicate how we will mitigate against these. The planning authority will not grant development consent if they are not satisfied that a rigorous EIA was undertaken and that the project will not impede on nature conservation objectives.
The project will be located approximately 12km from shore at its closest point at Bray Head. This distance, combined with the curvature of the earth, means that we envisage that the turbines are unlikely to have a significant impact on the seascape. As part of the EIA and consultation process, OW will undertake a visual impact assessment. This assessment will also have to consider the cumulative impact of other projects and proposed projects in the area.
Ireland, as a member of the EU, has committed to transitioning towards a carbon-neutral society by 2050, in line with the Paris Agreement and the EU Green Deal. The current Programme for Government set a target for 80% of electricity to be from renewable sources by 2030 and for 5GW of offshore wind by 2030. This target was increased to up to 80% in the Climate Action Plan 2021. Réalt na Mara will make a valuable contribution towards achieving Ireland’s renewable energy and wider Net Zero ambitions.
The first stage of the planning process is to apply for a Foreshore Licence to the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage (DHLGH). This is the licence required to conduct surveys and site investigations in the foreshore area. A foreshore licence is not a development consent and does not award exclusive occupation of the site. A Foreshore Licence Application for Réalt na Mara was submitted in March 2021.
A Maritime Area Consent (MAC) is required for exclusive occupation of an offshore site under the Maritime Area Planning (MAP) Bill which was signed into law in December 2021. The final regulatory and consenting regimes falling out of this bill are being finalised. Under the MAP a new agency, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA), will be established. This agency will be responsible for granting Maritime Area Consents to offshore wind developers.
It is expected that the MAP will streamline the marine planning and consenting process.
For OW, the next step will be to apply to MARA for a MAC which will be necessary to proceed to applying for the requisite consents and planning permission. The project will then be subject to the full assessment procedures by An Bord Pleanála.
The Réalt na Mara Offshore Wind Farm is committed to continuous and meaningful engagement with fishers and their representatives and to ensuring that their needs and concerns are addressed throughout all stages of development and operation of Réalt na Mara. A dedicated Fisheries Liaison Officer (FLO) has been appointed for the duration of the project to engage with the fishing community.
Ocean Winds experience to date with offshore wind developments has been that the fishing community can co-exist harmoniously with offshore wind developments and that offshore wind can offer new and diverse opportunities for the community.
Yes, a significant community benefit fund will be made available for local projects in communities closest to the proposed Réalt na Mara development. The value of the fund and the process for how it is allocated will be in line with the requirements set out in the Offshore Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS).
We expect that a number of jobs will be created during the construction of the proposed development and during the operation and maintenance phase of the project. Indirectly, Réalt na Mara will create supply chain opportunities for contractors, consultants and service providers throughout the development and construction of the project.
See below the anticipated project timeline.
As the project is at an early stage, the size and number of turbines has not been determined. However, based on preliminary assessments, it is envisaged that the project could generate up to 1.6GW of clean renewable electricity.
As this project is at an early stage the exact turbine technology is not yet determined and is subject to the feedback received during the public consultation and detailed design process and full procurement process.
The exact location of the Operation and Maintenance base has yet to be identified. This will be determined through feasibility, technical and environmental studies, in addition to the consideration of stakeholder feedback received during the public consultations.
We have identified potential landfall locations as part of the Foreshore Licence Application. The final grid solution will be determined by the onshore and offshore investigations, survey activities and in consultation with the system operator
The typical operational life of a wind turbine is 25-30 years. However, advancements in offshore wind technology and maintenance processes could mean that new wind farm developments will outlive the typical life cycle.