The review process will ensure wind companies have the cash to meet their ambitions

WIND ENERGY companies are screened to determine if they really have the money and expertise to build their proposed offshore wind farms before they are allowed to apply for planning permission.

The new system is designed to weed out non-participants before binding them to Aboard Pleanála in months of highly technical and labor-intensive testing.

Any developer must first obtain a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) before submitting their massive developments to the Planning Committee for decision.

MACs are only granted if they can demonstrate that their plan is technically feasible, have the capacity to implement it, and have sufficient investment behind them.

“The advantage of this is that we don’t type An Bord Pleanála with projects that might not have the resources to be built,” Environment Minister said Eamon Ryan called.

“If An Bord Pleanála says yes, we want these projects to start immediately.”

The MAC system will open for applications on April 25 and will remain open for eight weeks to allow five developers with seven proposed offshore wind farms to submit their proposals for evaluation.

The seven projects are projects that have already carried out extensive seabed analyzes and are in the most advanced stage of preliminary planning preparation.

Mr Ryan said a total of 57 international wind developers had made approaches to setting up offshore projects in Ireland.

The seven early runners include Oriel Wind Farm off Co Louth, North Irish Sea Array off Louth, Meath and Dublin; and the Dublin Array, which consists of two parts, the Kish and Bray projects, running from Dublin Bay to North Wicklow.

The other three are the Codling Wind Park, consisting of sister developments off Greystones and Wicklow Town, and the Sceirde Rocks project proposed for Carna, Co. Galway.

The minister said he expects to complete MAC assessments by early autumn, paving the way for successful candidates to submit planning applications before the end of the year.

In order to meet the country’s energy needs and meet climate targets, it is necessary to have some electricity from offshore wind power in four years’ time.

The MAC system means the country will have a proper offshore wind farm planning process for the first time.

The seven early projects operated under the 89-year-old Foreshore Act, which only covers marine developments within 12 nautical miles of shore.

As a replacement, a new Marine Area Planning Act has been introduced that will guide all construction, development and activity at sea.

A new government body, the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority, will take over the MAC process when it is established next year and will also enforce conditions attached by An Bord Pleanála to all permits issued.

The government’s goal is to have five gigawatts (5 GW) of electricity from offshore wind power by 2030 – more than the whole country currently consumes in a day.

Longer term plans are to build a series of floating wind farms far out in the deep waters of the Atlantic, where wind potential is estimated at up to 70GW – enough to make Ireland a major exporter of wind energy. The review process will ensure wind companies have the cash to meet their ambitions

Fry Electronics Team

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