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Plans for huge offshore wind farms will require port infrastructure upgrades

“Mega” offshore wind projects off Ireland’s coast will require increased investment in the country’s port infrastructure, according to a Dublin-based consultant engineering group.

GDG (Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions) is currently working with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland on a gap analysis designed to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the offshore renewable-energy supply chain here.

The analysis – which is set to be completed at the end of this month – comes as Ireland is set to miss its 2020 emission targets.

Last month, the Climate Change Advisory Council criticised government action to date, saying Ireland would miss the 2020 targets “by a substantial margin” and was “not on track” to decarbonise the economy by 2050, despite pledging to do so under the Paris climate deal.

Industry players frequently point out that securing planning permission for onshore wind farms is becoming increasingly difficult.

That leaves offshore farms as an alternative to rolling out further wind-energy capacity.

But so far, just one offshore wind farm has been built in Ireland – Arklow Bank, which has 25MW of generating capacity and was constructed over a decade ago.

Paul Doherty, the managing director of GDG, said that Ireland became a “voyeur nation” in relation to offshore wind farm construction after the Arklow Bank was completed, because a lack of political support and a subsidy regime stalled projects here.

In the meantime, he said that the UK and countries in continental Europe rolled out “impressive” offshore wind policies that resulted in several gigawatts of offshore wind power being installed over a relatively short period of time.

Mr Doherty said there was now a fresh push towards offshore wind farms in Ireland. The ESB is planning a multi-billion-euro roll-out of offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea, beginning as early as this year.

“The obvious concern for the emerging offshore wind sector in Ireland is the lack of supply chain to deliver such schemes and the potential reliance on oversees suppliers and foreign companies,” he said.

The gap analysis being undertaken by GDG is also examining requirements for fabrication facilities in Ireland.

In a separate project with the Geological Survey of Ireland, GDG has been identifying potential sites off the east coast.

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