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03 Dec 2021

New report finds Shannon Estuary has potential to become a global hub for floating offshore wind generation

New report finds Shannon Estuary has potential to become a global hub for floating offshore wind generation

Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port and Paul Doherty, MD Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions’ pictured at Foynes Port | PICTURE: Sean Curtin

A major new study has found the Shannon Estuary has the potential to become a global hub for floating offshore wind.

If such a project were to be progressed it could attract up to 12billion in investment and lead to the creation of up to 30,000 jobs over the next 20 years.

The Offshore Wind Potential Study - commissioned by Shannon Foynes Port Company - by specialist geotechnical engineering consultancy Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions identifies the potential, through capitalising on the unique wind resource and deep-water port in Foynes to turn the State into an exporter of energy and generate unprecedented job creation in the process.

As the floating wind sector is currently in its infancy, there is no well-established supply chain and this represents an opportunity for Ireland and the region to be first movers in the floating wind sector, the report states.

The emergence of floating offshore wind technology as the biggest growth area for renewables globally combined with west coast of Ireland having among the best wind resources in the world and the unrivalled deep waters of the Shannon Estuary are key findings in the report which estimates the available wind resource can generate up to 70GW of floating offshore wind energy.

“With investment into the Shannon Estuary, there exists huge potential to develop world-class and innovative facilities aimed at growing the floating offshore renewable energy sector allied to the manufacturing potential in the Shannon Estuary. Therein exists the potential of dramatically reducing the Levelised Cost of Energy,” the report states.

It finds that Shannon Foynes is best placed to service the future offshore floating wind market due to the proximity to resource and market; availability of the deepest watercourse in Ireland and one of the deepest and most sheltered estuaries in the world; extensive future landbank availability; and the existence of Shannon Foynes Port Company as a statutory authority with National Tier 1 port status.

The fact that the port also has European Commission, Trans European Transport Network core corridor status on North/South and East/West corridors and the existing 1.6 GW connectivity to our own national grid were also key findings of the report.

“Offshore Floating Wind is rapidly expanding and therefore now is the time to capture the potential from this early-stage sector. Given the timelines to develop the required infrastructure, now is the time to commit the investment and ensure Ireland Inc. capitalises on the global opportunity as first movers in this exciting space. Shannon Foynes Port is the vehicle to maximise the benefits to Ireland Inc. from the floating wind market,” it states.

The report also identifies the potential to create between 10,000 and 20,000 jobs in manufacturing and a further 10,000 industry jobs arising from four distinct supply chain opportunities – manufacturing, staging and installation, operations and maintenance by 2050.

The study, which was carried out this year, found that the Shannon Estuary is best placed to service the future offshore floating wind market, both the domestic market and as a global exporter of energy and technology. It is, the report states, no surprise that the first Offshore Wind Farm sites in Ireland were all situated on the east coast, as they have fixed foundations. However, as the offshore floating wind technology becomes more efficient and the associated supply chain develops, the west coast of Ireland will become much more favourable. “The total potential capacity on the West coast dwarfs the East coast opportunity,” it adds.

Welcoming the report, Pat Keating, CEO of Shannon Foynes Port said:  “This report quantifies for the first time the unique floating offshore wind opportunity that exists for Ireland and not just for this region.  The mix of our world-class wind resources, the natural infrastructure here for a global manufacturing and industry base and climate change adds up to what is an unprecedented opportunity that we must capitalise on.  There is already significant interest in this from global energy players and we would anticipate generating a gigawatt of energy by the turn of the next decade. This would very much be a phased programme rivalling anything on an international scale but will transition Ireland to a global renewable energy leader. It will deliver our own energy requirements through renewable resources, replacing fossil fuels in the long term, but will also see Ireland become becoming a significant exporter of energy into the bargain.”

While floating wind presents an opportunity for Ireland to become a world leader, investment is needed in infrastructure, the report warns that a large constraint will be the ability of Ireland to connect this resource to the grid and export the excess to other markets. It also acknowledges the uniqueness of the Shannon Estuary and its potential for Green hydrogen production, International ship refuelling and export potential of hydrogen and green ammonia.

Among the individual challenges that need to be overcome are lack of an overarching Government policy identifying the export opportunity, weaknesses in the planning and consenting process, the construction of new port infrastructure, lack of an integrated approach and other competing countries  are getting a head start, such as Scotland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France and Portugal.

Gavin & Doherty Geosolutions’ report pinpoints huge potential for manufacturing facilities to be established in Shannon Estuary. It proposes Foynes Port as a Supply Chain Enterprise Park and the other local authority designated strategic development locations consisting of a total of 1200 hectares on the Shannon Estuary for device and component manufacture and assembly. It states that opportunities also exist for the production  of green hydrogen using electricity produced from the new Atlantic offshore wind farms. there.

Chairman of Shannon Foynes Port Company, David McGarry, says the report must be acted on: “Even if we target only half of the estimated 70GW potential off the West Coast, there’s a huge economic and jobs bounce from this as well. This can be transformational for the Irish economy and our environment. Floating technologies are relatively new in the offshore renewables sector and, coupled with the Atlantic’s mean wind speeds of 14m/s, we have global first mover advantage with this.”

Politicians from all parties have welcomed the publication of the report and the potential it has identified for the Shannon Estuary to become a global hub for floating offshore wind.

For more Limerick news click here 

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