The deal will see the construction of a 15MW demonstration project in the Irish Sea, co-developed by Oriel Windfarm and Gaelectric Holdings.

The €80m wind energy research project will serve as a pilot ahead of further development of offshore wind in the Irish Sea, which has the potential to produce up to 870MW of wind energy if the proposed Northern Irish Sea Array is constructed.

Step forward

The Irish Government’s Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources recently extended feed-in-tariff subsidies to offshore wind R&D projects up to 30MW.

The project will be the first major offshore wind project since the Arklow Bank wind farm in 2001.

Oriel managing director Brian Britton said: “This project represents the biggest step forward for the Irish offshore wind energy sector in the last ten years.”

He added that the demonstration project would aim to draw investment and attract partners to fulfil the aim of completing the much larger North Irish Sea Array.

“Demonstrations in the UK, Germany and Denmark have led to developments of full scale projects, leading to the creation of many thousands of jobs in those countries.”

Offshore invesment

Gaelectric chief executive Brendan McGrath said the offshore wind speeds make the Irish Sea a perfect location for offshore wind projects and developing new technologies.

He said: “We are confident that the project will attract leading industry players to the offshore Irish market and will be an important step towards realising the vast potential for renewable generation from the Irish Sea.”

Ireland currently has 2,911MW of wind capacity installed and connected to the grid, most of which is onshore capacity. In January 2015 Irish wind power met 33% of all Irish electricity demand, thanks to strong winds across the country.

The Irish Sea’s offshore wind resources have already been used by the UK to generate renewable energy. Last year DONG Energy and ScottishPower Renewables opened a 389MW wind farm which is expected to meet the annual electricity demand of around 280,000 homes.

A £50m terminal for offshore wind was constructed in Belfast, the first purpose-built offshore wind assembly harbour in the UK and Ireland.

Matt Field

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