Few clouds on horizon for wind energy in the west

Updated / Thursday, 4 Nov 2021 21:40

The 78km Galway Wind Way is open to the public for walking and cycling

By Teresa Mannion

The harnessing of green energy had already begun in the west of Ireland ahead of the Climate Action Plan's target of increasing the proportion of renewable electricity to 80% by 2030.

It is hoped this ambition will attract more investment as well as helping ease the effect of climate change.

John O’Sullivan is an environmental advisor to SSE Renewables based at Galway Wind Park.

He said that while the Climate Action Plan targets are progressive and achievable, our planning process "needs to be overhauled to attract more companies with expertise in the global renewable energy hub".

He added: "Wind energy is the backbone of onshore and offshore energy for the future.

"We’ve seen significant investment in rural Ireland over the past number of years including here at Galway Wind Park where €300 million has been ploughed into this project which continues to deliver socio-economic and environmental benefits."

John O'Sullivan in Galway Wind Park

The Galway Wind Park also has a 78km 'Wind Way' which is open to the public for walking and cycling. The trails were designed with input from the local community and feature educational interpretative panels around the natural environment.

Advancements in mechanical and electrical engineering behind the turbine technology is also explained.

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Ireland's sea area is seven times greater than our land mass and uniquely placed to capitalise on the renewable energy sector.

Speaking in Salthill, Galway’s Green Party Senator, Pauline O’Reilly, said plans to achieve the five gigawatts target of offshore wind by 2030 was now very much on track and an essential part of the climate plan.

"It’s really key we get this right because what we do with our sea - harnessing the energy we pull in from the wind we see here off the Atlantic seaboard - can hopefully drive the change that needs to happen.

"We are clearly on track. One of the key elements is planning and by the end of this year I feel confident that we will have the Maritime Area Planning Bill over the line.

"That’s what companies have been waiting for, that’s what the sector has been calling for. It was in the Programme for Government and now it’s in the Climate Action Plan."

Galway's Green Party Senator Pauline O’Reilly

Meanwhile the decision by the Norwegian company Equinor to withdraw from the Irish offshore wind market was described as regrettable by a number of sectors.

Wind Energy Ireland said it underlines the slow pace of planning and regulatory reform. It said Ireland needs to move "a lot more quickly" to be open for business and achieve its targets under the Climate Action Plan.

Professor Rory Monaghan said Equinor's withdrawal was hugely disappointing to those in the renewable energy sector.

"It’s a project we were very excited about particularly here on the west coast. It was really exciting technology looking at floating wind, looking at hydrogen storage, looking at doing the construction of wind turbines at Moneypoint.

"But they are not the only company that is looking at the offshore sector in Ireland. The Irish Sea is booming as far as offshore goes. There are many, many companies involved there.

"Things are going very well, too, off the south coast and there are Irish companies looking to develop floating offshore wind off the west coast as well."