ESB is a diversified, vertically integrated utility, majority owned by the Irish Government. ESB operates right across the electricity market in Ireland and the UK: from generation, through transmission and distribution to supply.
Equinor is a broad-based Norwegian energy company with significant international experience in developing and operating offshore wind.
ESB and Equinor formed a development partnership in 2019. The Partnership was established to draw on ESB’s deep understanding of the Irish energy market and Equinor’s global experience in offshore wind development. The collaboration is underpinned by shared values and a common objective to develop well-designed offshore wind projects of scale, taking into account the needs and interests of key stakeholders. Equinor’s offshore wind experience will complement ESB’s existing expertise of developing and operating generation projects in the Irish and UK markets.
Furthermore, Equinor are the world leaders in floating offshore wind technology having developed world’s first floating wind farm, the Hywind Scotland pilot, built in 2017 off the east coast of Scotland and they are currently constructing the Hywind Tampen offshore wind farm in the Norwegian North Sea.
Winds are stronger and more consistent offshore than onshore and there is greater potential to install larger turbines at sea relative to onshore. The combination of high wind speeds and larger turbines allows for more energy generation. Not only will an offshore windfarm generate more energy, it will generate energy on a more consistent basis. This makes it easier for the grid operator to integrate this renewable electricity source.
The Climate Action Plan has set ambitious targets for decarbonisation by 2030 with a plan to deliver at least 3.5GW of offshore wind by that date. The recently published Programme for Government increased that 2030 target to 5GW. Ireland now has a major opportunity to benefit from the significant reduction in the cost of offshore wind seen throughout Northern Europe in recent years.
Floating turbines can be located in areas with sea depths over 60 metres, harnessing the best wind resources and opening new sites to power generation. Most offshore wind turbines today are fixed to the seabed, so-called bottom-fixed, and in more shallow waters. The next generation of turbines are designed to float in the water allowing development further out to sea where winds are stronger, but the water depths make bottom-fixed designs uneconomic. Most offshore wind floater designs are similar to the ones applied for the oil and gas platforms. Floating turbines are moored to the seabed with multiple mooring lines and anchors, in much the same way as a floating oil platform. Floating wind turbine motion controllers use sensors to regulate the turbine blades in adverse conditions, reducing strain on the moorings and maximising electricity production. There are three main designs of floaters for offshore wind (spar buoy, semi-submersible and tension leg platform) and both steel and concrete can be used as a construction material.
Spar-Buoy Tension Leg Platform Semi-Submersible
A Spar Buoy design relies on gravity for its stability, Tension Leg Platforms (TLP) are reliant on the tension of the mooring system and Semi-Submersible rely on buoyancy.
Floating offshore wind off the South and West Coasts would provide Ireland an opportunity to harvest some of the best wind resource there are, not only for domestic purposes but also through interconnection with the rest of Europe.
ESB and Equinor are currently evaluating different floating wind concepts and will select the optimal solution for Moneypoint offshore wind farm
The Atlantic Sea has the best wind resource in Europe for producing clean, renewable energy from offshore wind generation. While the harsh environment can be challenging from a construction and operation perspective, this area benefits from exemplary wind speeds. Studies of the seabed using existing data sources indicates that this area off County Clare/Kerry is potentially suitable for developing a floating offshore windfarm project with its sea depths of 100 - 120m. The first phase of the project would be located approximately 16km (at the nearest point) from the coastline. The site assessment study also took account of potential connection options to the national grid. The project team is currently evaluating the option to connect into ESB’s Moneypoint Power Station on the Shannon Estuary.
A foreshore licence confers the holder with the right to undertake certain specified survey and site investigation works such as geotechnical investigations and wind resource measurement on a non-exclusive basis for a defined period of time within the foreshore. The foreshore is defined as the land and seabed between the high-water mark of ordinary or medium tides (shown HWM on Ordnance Survey maps) and the twelve nautical mile limit. The licence does not represent any form of planning permission.