New Irish companies are springing up “almost every week” to serve Ireland’s burgeoning offshore wind development sector, while global demand for renewable energy is fueled by the need to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and meet climate targets.
The growth spurt comes amid concerns that the current energy crisis will lead to rationing and blackouts in Europe this winter.
There are growing fears that Russia will cut gas supplies to Europe further in retaliation for sanctions imposed over Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. On Thursday, Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe said Russia’s halt to gas supplies to Europe would pose a “serious” risk to Ireland.
Ireland, which has only one operational offshore wind farm, has set a target of generating 5GW of offshore wind power by 2030, as part of the government’s climate change plan target to meet 80% of our electricity needs within the next eight years from renewable energies to cover years.
However, the industry complains about planning delays.
Also, just in March, the long-awaited Maritime Area Consent (MAC) process was announced, granting permits to offshore wind energy developers who meet the relevant criteria.
While the domestic offshore wind supply chain is tiny compared to the UK – Europe’s largest offshore market – local suppliers are emerging, offering everything from geophysical and environmental surveys to ship engineering, pontoon systems and data collection.
Kate Dempsey founded Aqualicense, based in Arklow, in 2019 to secure planning for aquaculture activities such as salmon farming and oyster farming, but last year expanded into offshore renewable energy, developing early stage permits and license applications for wind developers.
Last month, Aqualicense was named the overall winner at the National Enterprise Awards. Its clients include Tethra, a portfolio of six offshore wind farm developments planned around the Irish coast of which Dempsey is part-owner.
The serial entrepreneur also founded Ondine, which conducts geophysical and aerial surveys and environmental assessments. Its surveying assets include a 25-meter catamaran and sensor-equipped aircraft based out of Weston Airport.
“We’re now seeing a supply chain ecosystem where new businesses are springing up almost weekly,” she says.
“The supply chain is very focused on the early-stage planning process, but companies are preparing to build offshore wind farms.”
Last month Enterprise Ireland officially launched the Gael Offshore Network, a new network of more than 65 companies aiming to increase expertise in Ireland’s offshore wind sector.
According to Enterprise Ireland, Gael Offshore Network member companies have already secured several high quality deals in the UK and other markets around the world. Dempsey has worked in the UK, Canada and Europe while the Irish planning system is still in its infancy.
“There is a gap in the market and a need for Irish survey vessels flying the Irish flag,” says Dempsey.
“There is more work out there but only a limited pool of survey vessels in Europe to meet the requirements. This is good for us, but can be challenging for developers.”
Meanwhile, Crosshaven-based Green Rebel uses its fleet of ships, aircraft, light detection and ranging (lidar) buoys and technology to collect, process and analyze ocean, air and ocean data for offshore developers.
It employs 75 people in Cork and Limerick – a number that is expected to grow to 100 this year. In March, Green Rebel was commissioned by Energia to conduct geophysical surveys for its proposed offshore wind farm off the coast of Waterford, a project that could provide enough offshore wind energy to power a million homes.
Ballycotton-raised entrepreneur Pearse Flynn founded Green Rebel two years ago with the aim of creating jobs for Irish coastal communities.
Green Rebel Chief Executive Kieran Ivers says: “He had businesses in Scotland, which are much more advanced in offshore wind, and he saw the economic benefits across Scotland and across the UK. And when that happens, we want to make sure we don’t repeat past mistakes like the Kinsale and Corrib gas fields.
“Without supply chain companies like Green Rebel, these services would be imported and this revenue would be generated outside of Ireland.
“There really is enough room in Ireland for at least 10 Green Rebels, given the amount of work down the line.”
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