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Concern agencies ‘not ready’ for wind park applications

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The head of the wind energy industry body has said the sector is worried that state planning and environmental agencies may not be ready to deal with planning applications for offshore wind parks that are about to be submitted.

Noel Cunniffe, the chief executive of Wind Energy Ireland, also said clarity is needed on Government plans for floating wind energy.

Mr Cunniffe said although the mood is positive within Ireland’s wind industry, the next twelve months are going to be critical.

“We are still worried that An Bord Pleanála, the National Parks & Wildlife Services and key environmental stakeholders are not ready for the six offshore wind energy planning applications which will be on their desks shortly,” he said.

“It should be a national priority to ensure our planning system has the resources and the expertise to properly, fairly and robustly assess these applications in time to get these projects delivered by the end of the decade.”

“It is important that the next offshore auction takes place before the end of the year but also that we know when the subsequent auctions will take place and for what locations.”

While project groups are preparing to submit plans for six offshore energy projects around the coast of Ireland that will use fixed-bottom turbines, the industry is now seeking definitive plans for the developing of floating wind farms.

“We can make Ireland a world leader in floating wind energy,” Mr Cunniffe said.

“To do this, we need two things. First, we need all of the east and south coast fixed-bottom projects to get built. They will build the port infrastructure, the supply-chain and the investor confidence needed to develop floating wind energy.”

“Without these projects the idea that people will invest billions in floating wind farms in a country that has failed in the development of offshore wind energy is ludicrous.

“Second, we need clarity from the Government on their plans for a floating wind energy ‘demonstrator project’. How big will it be? Where will it be located? How will it connect to the electricity grid? Our members are eager to get to work to help answer these questions.”

Mr Cunniffe made the comments as stakeholders across the sector gathered in Dublin for annual Offshore Wind Conference.

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