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Home » Future of Energy » Floating offshore wind – a new frontier for Ireland

Allan MacAskill

Co-Chief Technology Officer, Flotation Energy

Carlos Ramiro Visser

Senior VP of Offshore Wind Business Development, Cobra

Barrie McMullin

Project Manager, Flotation Energy

With Ireland setting an ambitious decarbonisation target for 2030, the aim is to deliver alternative, cheaper and more reliable energy forms; a frontrunner is floating wind.

How can you jumpstart a floating offshore wind opportunity for Ireland?

Carlos Ramiro Visser (CRV): Our global pipeline is driven by a guiding principle of establishing long-term viability within respective local contexts. For example, our White Cross floating wind project in the Celtic Sea utilised the best available data when selecting a site; working closely with the fishing sector and marine users to secure preferred locations so that our activities can coexist.

What experience can you bring to help Ireland realise its offshore wind ambitions?

CRV: Ireland can take experience from its Scottish neighbours on projects like Kincardine — a test and demonstration floating project off Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was the world’s first commercial grid-connected floating wind farm, pioneered by a team that is now the principal leader of offshore wind developers Cobra and Flotation Energy.

Kincardine highlighted many challenges, opportunities and lessons learned that can be utilised for future developments, particularly in Ireland where environmental conditions and windspeeds are similar. It also proved that a different approach to design, fabrication and installation will be required for commercial scale to ensure efficient, sustainable and timely delivery.

For Ireland, Cobra and Flotation Energy’s track record in commercial floating wind development — coupled with firsthand experience in the construction, operation and maintenance of the largest grid-connected floating offshore wind farm — gives them the knowledge to design and plan for successful and efficient projects.

What will be the biggest challenges for floating offshore wind in Ireland?  

Barrie McMullin (BM): Floating wind is being explored globally, and we are determined to ensure that this potential is fulfilled in Ireland. There are some challenges, however; this must be seen in the wider context of the enormous potential an Irish floating wind industry will provide.

Both Government and industry must work together to optimise site selection; this process in Ireland must align with current technological capabilities of delivering floating wind in hostile, offshore environments. Our White Cross floating wind project in the Celtic Sea has illustrated that collaboration between Government, developers and supply chain at a regional level is essential for success.

Allan MacAskill (AM): Each project conjures up difficult aspects, so we are becoming adept at finding solutions that help speed up development. For example, with the 50 MW Kincardine project, which is in waters 60–80 metres, we had to design and develop the world’s most powerful turbines on floating substructures.

Ultimately, if Ireland supports offshore wind projects, then it will have its own reliable source of energy, meaning it is protected from international shocks

Allan MacAskill, Co-Chief Technology Officer, Flotation Energy

What are the regulatory opportunities and challenges?

AM: Ireland has the potential to be seen as an electricity exporter, becoming an energy hub internationally as well as providing clean, reliable electricity with its home-produced offshore wind projects.

We hope to apply for projects in Ireland’s next round of bidding, and we try to invest upfront in long-term data because projects can take a long time to get off the ground — even after approval. For example, you need to collect two years of bird data before setting up a wind project. If you pre-invest in data, you take the completion time down from a decade to six or seven years.

Why are offshore wind projects the future of energy in Ireland?

AM: Ultimately, if Ireland supports offshore wind projects, then it will have its own reliable source of energy, meaning it is protected from international shocks. It can also be a fantastic export market. Most importantly, it will be more affordable for Irish consumers.

Floating wind poses the most reliable energy supply available because winds are stronger and more stable in deeper waters. However, fixed offshore wind projects are cost-effective and affordable because, closer to shore, we have the soil conditions and technology to install and operate them quickly. Floating wind needs to be more cost-effective, and that will come as projects scale. Agility and innovation are key.

Cobra and Flotation Energy are joint venture partners in delivering a portfolio of projects in the UK, Ireland and Asia Pacific.

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