Wind Energy Ireland has described the publication of the provisional results of the country’s first offshore wind auction as a landmark day for renewable energy. The average price, at €86.05, was significantly lower than some had predicted and welcome news for Irish electricity consumers.

Four projects were successful in the auction for a total of 3.1 giga-watts (GW) of capacity. That is more than half the government’s target of 5 GW of offshore wind energy for connection to the grid by the end of 2030 and the equivalent of powering more than 2.6 million Irish homes annually.

The four successful projects are North Irish Sea Array and Dublin Array off the coast of Dublin, Codling Wind Park off the coast of Wicklow, and Sceirde Rocks off the coast of Galway.

Noel Cunniffe, CEO of Wind Energy Ireland, said: “This is a landmark day in Ireland’s response to the climate emergency. These projects are leading an Irish energy revolution which will deliver clean, secure, Irish energy to our homes, businesses and communities. This is the day offshore wind energy in Ireland became more than just a good idea and took its place as the future cornerstone of Irish energy independence.

“We are immensely proud of our members in getting this far and it is important to acknowledge the huge volume of work that has been put in to making this happen over the last three years by Minister Ryan’s department, EirGrid, ESB Networks and the CRU. This has been a real example of how industry and government can work together effectively.

“This week’s announcement from Minister Simon Coveney of plans for an industrial strategy for offshore wind energy makes clear the government’s commitment to ensuring that as we cut carbon emissions and prices, we create jobs at home and support Irish businesses.”

Auction price

The auction price, at €86.05 per megawatt-hour (MW/h), is significantly lower than some had predicted and compares to average prices for electricity in April of €126/MWh and more than €200/MWh over the last 12 months. This achievement is all the more impressive when projects did not have planning permission or clarity on what ports might be available for construction.

Cunniffe continued: “This is great news for Irish electricity consumers and means the sooner we can get these wind farms built and connected the quicker they can help struggling Irish families and businesses. We need to end our dependency on imported fossil fuels and a volatile gas market that is causing enormous hardship to Irish people.

“The best and quickest way to do that, to make our country energy secure, is to accelerate the delivery of wind energy. Today’s auction announcement is a huge step in that direction. This is a far lower price than was achieved with the first British auction and is not far off prices anticipated in their next auction later this summer.

“By extending the duration of the contracts to 20 years and providing some certainty around the effect of inflation on prices the Government has helped to deliver real value for consumers.”

Planning challenge

While the awarding of contracts represents a landmark day for Ireland’s renewable energy industry none of the projects who were successful in today’s auction have yet been able to apply for planning permission.

The lack of resources and capacity in An Bord Pleanála, the National Parks & Wildlife Service and the delays in setting up the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority are critical concerns for the industry and, particularly, the projects successful today.

“Today’s announcement is a massive achievement but the next step is even more critical. The Irish planning system is simply not ready for offshore wind," said Cunniffe. "The resources, the expertise, the plans are simply not in place.

“Ensuring we have a robust planning system that can quickly and fairly assess applications from these projects needs to be a top priority for the government.”

Other projects

Two projects which competed in today’s auction – Oriel Wind Park off the coast of Louth and Arklow Bank off the coast of south Wicklow – did not receive a contract but there are still ways for these projects to move forward.

“Oriel Wind Park and Arklow Bank are excellent projects with strong teams behind them. They are at a very advanced stage of development and while they have not received a contract under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme there are other ways to get to market.

“We will work closely with these projects to try and deliver the renewable energy that they can provide, and which Ireland desperately needs, through other forms of contracts.”