New report reveals multi-billion euro offshore wind energy potential

28 May 2020

But lack of suitable port means offshore wind farms may be built from ports on Britain’s west coast


Offshore wind energy could create 2,500 jobs over the next ten years and attract over €42 billion in lifetime investment. However, Ireland’s offshore wind farms will be built from bases outside the country, losing billions of this potential investment, unless strategic investment decisions are made now.

The findings are included in a new report, published this morning, by the Carbon Trust for the Irish Wind Energy Association. Harnessing our Potential is a comprehensive analysis of Ireland’s potential offshore wind energy supply chain and includes a detailed examination of the suitability of ports for supporting the construction of offshore wind farms in Irish waters.

The report shows the huge potential for the sector (see accompanying infographic) but concludes that Irish firms would be able to attract, at most, just over a fifth of this investment unless steps are taken to grow the local supply chain.

A key reason is that developers will be forced to use ports like Belfast, Mostyn or Barrow to construct the proposed wind farms because no port in the Irish Republic meets all the requirements to serve the construction of an offshore wind farm.

Operations bases

Developing the 3.5 GW of new offshore wind farms necessary to achieve the Climate Action Plan’s 2030 target also creates new opportunities for smaller ports as operations and maintenance bases.

The report estimates the total lifetime commercial value of those services at €350 million which will also enable existing local businesses to participate in the supply chain.

This kind of investment has transformed small coastal communities in Scotland where it has created hundreds of full-time jobs and attracted substantial investment in harbour improvements so that these smaller ports can service the country’s growing number of offshore wind farms.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Strategic investment must be directed urgently into one or more Irish ports on the east coast to develop offshore wind farms, including providing operations and maintenance support;
  • The Government must bring together industry, ports and local communities to develop offshore wind enterprise hubs to attract international investors and link them to Irish suppliers;
  • Continued support for Enterprise Ireland’s work on an offshore wind cluster for Irish companies to enable them to develop the skills and experience they need to compete in the British and European offshore wind markets;
  • Bring together schools, universities and training bodies to eliminate the skills gap and ensure that Irish workers can compete for the 2,500 construction – and 700 permanent – jobs that will be created just by achieving our 2030 targets.

Dr David Connolly, CEO of the Irish Wind Energy Association, said:

“Over the next ten years Ireland will connect a new generation of offshore wind farms, providing enormous amounts of clean energy to power homes, farms and businesses. But without investment not a single port in the Irish Republic will be capable of servicing the requirements to install an offshore wind farm and developers will be forced to look to ports such as Belfast or those on the British coast.

“This is the time for Ireland to seize the opportunity, to bring together industry, policymakers and coastal communities to identify a suitable port on Ireland’s east coast and to make it a base for Ireland’s newest industry.”

Listen back to David discussing the report on RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland.

Liam Leahy of the Carbon Trust, lead author of the report:

“Ireland has significant wind resources around its coastline and by accelerating the deployment of offshore wind farms Ireland will be able to meet its carbon reduction targets whilst benefiting from clean affordable electricity.

“Our report outlines how Ireland will become an attractive market for offshore wind investors but also lays out a series of recommendations to help the country fully capitalise on these investments. In the longer term, Ireland’s west coast offshore wind resource has the potential to play a key role in helping Europe to decarbonise and offers Ireland a chance to lead the sector.”

Peter Lefroy, chairperson of IWEA’s offshore committee, is Project Director with innogy, which is working to develop the Dublin Array offshore wind project:

“Ireland has set a target of delivering 3.5 GW of offshore wind which presents a significant challenge given we are going from almost a standing start. Key to meeting that target will be building an indigenous and economically sustainable supply chain that makes a substantial contribution to the Irish exchequer and lowers the cost of electricity to the consumer.

“Offshore wind globally is rapidly expanding as the technology improves and costs fall.  Establishing an Irish supply chain will be critical to ensure Ireland fully captures that opportunity and can compete on a global market. This not only relates to physical infrastructure but also to the workforce, skills and training required to service the industry in the long term.”

Paul Doherty, Managing Director with engineering consultants GDG, leads IWEA’s supply chain work:

“This report highlights the importance of developing both a local indigenous supply chain that will create high-value jobs in coastal towns around the country and a transparent market environment that will encourage experienced international suppliers to invest here.

“The development of the offshore wind sector in Ireland is a good news story but to accelerate the industry and maximise the potential for our economy careful consideration needs to be given to how the supply chain develops in the months and years ahead.”

Skillnet Ireland part-funded the report and their CEO, Paul Healy, said:

“Offshore wind energy has a crucial role in the Government’s Climate Action Plan and an increased focus on developing Ireland’s energy capability will create needs for new skills and talents. As an enterprise support agency Skillnet Ireland ensures that businesses have access to the skills required to deliver on ambitious targets.

"This research report supported by Green Tech Skillnet/Skillnet Ireland harnesses the critical industry intelligence that will inform and shape skills and talent needs of the sector over the coming years.”

This report was produced by the Carbon Trust for the Irish Wind Energy Association and part-funded by Green Tech SkillNet.