The minister is clearing the way for the first offshore wind farms in 20 years to apply for planning permission

SEVEN major offshore wind farm developments have been cleared to apply for planning permission for the first offshore renewable energy projects in 20 years.

The seven, six in the Irish Sea and one in the Atlantic, received their Maritime Area Consents (MACs) yesterday and now have 18 months to apply for planning permission.

First introduced earlier this year, MACs serve as a pre-planning assessment to check that projects are technologically and financially viable before applying for planning permission.

Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan granted the MACs, but going forward they will be administered by a new marine area regulator due to be established in the new year.

Mr Ryan said the approvals are a milestone on the road to increasing the country’s renewable power generation.

“We have given Ireland’s most viable and most advanced offshore energy projects the opportunity to progress through the planning system and achieve development,” he said.

“This is a significant milestone on the road to decarbonizing our energy supply and securing energy independence.”

The announcement came a day after the launch of the new national climate action plan, which aims to deploy seven gigawatts of offshore power capacity by 2030.

That corresponds to the power consumption of four million households.

A MAC gives a project developer the right to occupy the marine area where the wind turbines are expected to be installed and where their cable route is expected to run to shore, although they do not have exclusive access.

If the project is approved, the approval scope is narrowed down to the more precisely defined area. The right of use is valid for 45 years and the developers pay an annual fee to the state.

Developers must also secure a “path to market” — an agreement on power delivery — by the end of 2025.

The seven projects are Oriel Wind Farm and the North Irish Sea Array, both off the coast of Louth-Meath, the joint Kish Bank and Bray Bank developments off South Dublin and North Wicklow, Codling I and Codling II off Mid Wicklow, Arklow Bank II off South Wicklow and the Skerd Rocks off the Galway-Clare coast.

Arklow Bank I has been operational since 2004 when it was one of the first offshore wind farms in the world and at the time the largest operational, but despite its success no further offshore wind projects have been advanced to date. The minister is clearing the way for the first offshore wind farms in 20 years to apply for planning permission

Fry Electronics Team

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