Momentum is growing behind Ireland’s offshore wind energy revolution

28 Apr 2023

It was inspiring to be in Ostend last week hearing the Taoiseach set out his ambition for an energy-independent Ireland. He was speaking as one of eight EU leaders, with the President of the European Commission, who united behind a clear political declaration to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy.

We are already accelerating in Ireland. Last Thursday the country’s first offshore wind energy auction opened. The first group of projects are competing against each other to provide electricity at the best possible price and, when the results are announced in May, the successful projects will take a huge step forward.  

But, as they overcome that challenge, they face new ones – a broken planning system, an electricity grid which urgently needs reinforcement and a lack of ports infrastructure.


Ireland’s planning system is the flashing red light on the timelines of every single Irish offshore wind energy project. Planning applications for onshore wind farms are supposed to be decided by An Bord Pleanála within 18 weeks but, on average, it is taking more than a year.

How long will it take to review applications for offshore projects that are far larger and much more complex? How can we be sure a decision to grant planning permission will survive any judicial review?

An Bord Pleanála does not have anything like the resources needed to deal with the volume and complexity of offshore wind planning applications.

We cannot achieve energy independence without offshore wind farms. And we cannot get projects permitted quickly enough, after the proper scrutiny, without more inspectors, ecologists and marine biologists in An Bord Pleanála, all supported by what will need to be the best-resourced legal department of any State agency.

Similar levels of investment are needed in other critical agencies like the NPWS and the new Maritime Area Regulatory Authority – which needs to be established as soon as possible. Environmental and fishing stakeholders must also be supported to be part of this process.


Our electricity grid was built for a 20th century fossil-fuel economy. It must be completely redesigned and reinforced to support a new, energy-independent, Ireland relying chiefly on wind and solar power.

EirGrid, the transmissions system operator, has a strategy for how to do this and an updated version of Shaping Our Electricity Future is due this summer with new solutions to accommodate Ireland’s massive wind energy resources.

Reinforcing and strengthening Ireland’s electricity grid must be a national mission, something supported right across the political spectrum and from Government Buildings down to the local County Council chamber.

We need to build critically needed new grid infrastructure like the North-South Interconnector and we must invest to ensure that the system can, eventually, operate with 100 per cent renewable energy.

Those seeking to undermine this strategy, to keep our electricity system stuck in the 20th century, are risking our country’s energy security and our economic future.


We want to build Irish offshore wind farms in Irish ports. Our members – ports and developers – are absolutely united on this. But the Government needs to want it as well.

We do not have a single port in the Irish Republic capable of being used to build an offshore wind farm and, while Belfast Harbour is an outstanding facility that is capable of building offshore wind farms, we cannot simultaneously build all the offshore wind farms we need from a single location.

Several ports, like Rosslare, Cork Dockyard, Port of Cork and Shannon-Foynes, plan to expand so they build offshore wind farms, but these improvements require significant investment. While they can, and will, raise much of this themselves support from the State is crucial.

If offshore wind energy is, as the Taoiseach describes it, ‘our 21st century moonshot’, then there is no better place to invest some of the country’s significant financial resources than in our port infrastructure.

Without more ports we will either miss our 2030 targets or build these wind farms from ports outside of Ireland. Instead of creating jobs in Wexford, Cork and Limerick, our wind farms will be providing employment in Britain and France.

We can deliver the Taoiseach’s ambition. We can build an energy-independent Ireland at the heart of an energy-secure Europe. We know what must be done. We have the resources and the expertise. We have the projects ready to go.

We need action.