New Irish wind farm would treble global wind power

Ireland has given the green light to a £395 million (€643 million) project to construct what is claimed to be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, ultimately capable of generating 520MW of electricity.

Ireland’s Marine and Natural Resources Minister Frank Fahey said the wind farm would be three times as big as the world’s existing wind farms put together, though a ‘Celtic Ring’ of wind farms planned for Scotland is likely to challenge its claim.

“Today heralds the dawning of a new age of clean, green energy, harvested from two plentiful renewable sources, the sea and the wind,” said Fahey at a signing ceremony in Dublin. He added that the windfarm would reduce Ireland’s CO2 emissions by 13.5 million tonnes a year, and that he was optimistic the project would be the first of many, helping to establish the Republic as a world leader in the industry.

The project is the brainchild of Eirtricity, an independent green energy supplier, which took the preliminary step of applying for a foreshore lease last June.

The windfarm’s 200 massive 110m high turbines will be sited on the 27km long Arklow Banks sandbank, in the Irish Sea some seven to ten kilometres off County Wicklow, on the east coast of Ireland. The farm will be built in four phases, finishing in 2005.

Phase One will bring 60MW of energy on line, and will be built from spring to autumn 2002, as weather allows. This phase alone is set to replace £160 million (€260 million) worth of fossil fuel over a 20-year period.

Construction will begin in early 2002 and be finished by the autumn.

Dr Eddie O’Connor, managing director of Eirtricity and vice-president of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), said the 520MW development will meet the needs of over 200 medium-sized technology companies and cost around £310 million (€505 million) to build.

“A move towards green electricity generation is vital to the survival of our environment, to say nothing of the contribution to Ireland’s commitments under the Kyoto treaty,” added O’Connor. “Around 500 jobs will be created and we will actively encourage our suppliers to use the resources and materials available in Arklow and the surrounding towns and communities.”

“The resource is there, the technology is proven, the costs continue to drop – all that is needed is the political will to see it happen,” he said.

BP and ChevronTexaco have also announced plans to build and operate a 22.5MW wind farm at their joint Nerefco oil refinery near Rotterdam in The Netherlands, subject to planning and other consents.

The US$23 million (€26 million) project is due to begin operating in the second half of 2002 and will be the first substantial use of wind turbine technology for both companies. The farm will generate enough electricity to power 20,000 households, and displace 20,000 tonnes of CO2 a year. The electricity will be sold locally in support of the Dutch national target for renewable energy generation.

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