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Fishermen’s deal with Swedish firm clears way for huge offshore wind farm – The Irish Times IV News

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Fishermen have traditionally opposed offshore wind farms because of the impact on their access to their fishing grounds, but a new partnership in Donegal wants to turn that relationship on its head, potentially generating massive amounts of energy. with being.

Over the next 18 months, the Kilibegs Fishermen Organisation, along with Hexicon, a Swedish firm that specializes in floating offshore wind farm technology, and Sinbad Marine Services, a company in Kilibegs that provides services to fishermen, submitted a planning application for the new marine. ready to do. regulator, for a €3 billion investment in an offshore floating wind farm off the south coast of Mara, Donegal.

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The site, when fully operational, can produce two gigawatts of energy each year. About six gigawatts are generated on the island of Ireland each year, meaning the site could produce more than a third of the energy required for the island when fully operational.

‘Here the fishing industry joined forces mainly because we were aware of all the issues on the east and south coast and the fishermen and wind developers were face to face’

Irish Wind Energy Association (IWEA) spokesman Justin Moran says Ireland has the potential to develop enough electricity through offshore wind farms to be energy independent by the end of 2030.

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Sean O’Donoghue, chief executive of the Kilibegs Fishermen’s Organization (KFO), says his group approached Hexicon, not the other way around.

“We call it a new approach, and perhaps a first in the world. Here the fishing industry got involved mainly because we were aware of all the issues on the east and south coast and fishermen and wind developers were face to face.”

According to O’Donoghue, several companies have approached KFO with “lines drawn on the map” in the past. This approach drives them “crackers,” he says.

your principles

KFO instead decided to establish their own set of principles and see if they could find a partner who agreed with them. It then made its approach to the hexicon.

There are six principles:

– Ensuring the participation of the fishing industry from the very beginning of the process;

– Developers are committed not to draw lines on the map before “meaningful consultation”;

– located offshore wind in places to reduce the “visual impact on the beach”;

– Biodiversity must be protected;

– will benefit the local community;

Wind technology to help deliver alternative fuels for the marine and fisheries sector.

The impact of Brexit on the fishing industry has also played a big part in this initiative, O’Donoghue says. “One of our driving factors was also that Donegal and Killibegs in particular were really badly hit by the Brexit deal. This year alone, we are losing over 12,000 tonnes of mackerel worth €18 million. Mackerel across the Irish Fishing is the mainstay of the industry, the main money-spinner.”

The site, which has yet to be fully determined, will be at least 50 km off the coast of Donegal, a factor that was “very important” in the decision to join Hexicon, O’Donoghue says.

Hexicon and KFO have now signed a Memorandum of Understanding to work together on the project.

Hexicon chief executive Marcus Thor says there doesn’t need to be a “conflict” between wind developers and fishermen, which happens “99 percent” of the time.

“I am extremely optimistic and enthusiastic about this test case,” he says.

O’Donoghue says no fee was paid to KFO by Hexicon, but adds that they may enter into a formal partnership at a later date.

‘tipping point’

In almost every other part of the world, fishermen are effectively compensated to ensure that projects are completed. That was not going to happen in Ireland, Thor says. Instead, there was a genuine approach to engagement and genuine partnership priorities.

Offshore floating wind farms were now at a “tipping point” of being commercially viable, says Thor.

They say building an offshore floating wind farm 50km off the coast isn’t too far off the coast if the site is large enough.

“We are not constrained by water depth. Floating Air is really about building on a large scale. The two gigawatt wind farm is a huge chunk of infrastructure investment that comes at a big, big cost.”

But he says the wind resource in the Atlantic is “incredible”.

Hexicon is a specialist in the “full development phase,” Thor explains, but it doesn’t have the balance sheet to develop the site itself. “At some point, other partners with larger balance sheets will join in.”

“Just a gigawatt, that’s a couple of billions of euros,” he says. “It’s going to be $3 billion to make a gigawatt” [offshore wind farm],

Moran says the challenges facing Hexicon are the same as those facing others in the region. The first challenge is the establishment of a new maritime regulator early next year. A special offer is also required for offshore floating wind power the next time Eergrid runs an auction for renewable energy.

energy auction

Eergrid runs an auction at specified times where it agrees to buy energy for the national grid from various energy providers at a fixed price over a specified period of time. Currently, it is more expensive to produce energy on floating offshore wind farms than on fixed-bottom offshore wind farms. This means a special market has to be set up to encourage companies to move to the offshore floating wind-farm sector.

The engagement with the government and regulators has now begun. O’Donoghue says he recognized that the government’s policy is to “go after marine renewable energy”, particularly offshore wind. He has had several meetings with Eamon Ryan and others later this year. “We are getting very positive response from the government on this.

O’Donoghue said he would emphasize KFO and Hexicon, a partnership model unique to the government. “What is happening on the East Coast is a recipe for disaster. There is, in my view, significant legal battles going on.” Other fishermen’s groups were now looking to kilibegs as a template, he says.

Connection to the grid is a significant demand for Hexicon and KFO.

“North-West was being written off by Irgrid in terms of connections. We’re managing to get the government to really rethink that. There’s no point in putting all this energy in the right place, but we don’t have any.” There is no grid connection. This is an important issue as part of this project,” says O’Donoghue. “Eirgrid has to face the reality of energy security for Ireland and they must act together.”

Moran says the national grid is “not fit for purpose”. He said the grid needed to be “reinforced” in the northwest.

it sees potential [for] Ireland to become a ‘major contributor to the pan-European renewable energy generation and transmission system’

An Eargrid spokesperson said the government is committed to achieving five gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 through development on the east and south coasts.

In parallel, it sees the potential for “at least 30 gigawatts of offshore floating wind power in deep waters in the Atlantic”, making Ireland “a major contributor to a pan-European renewable energy generation and transmission system”.

There will be investment in the North-West, with a blueprint identifying the need for a number of new projects, particularly those to facilitate new renewable generation.

In Donegal, additional capacity will be distributed, with a new development called the Northwest Project, the upgrade of Clogger to Drumkin Circuit and the reconnection of the network.

environmental concerns

Environmental concerns are also addressed by Hexicon and KFO. Thor says that floating wind has “less environmental impact” than a fixed-base offshore wind farm. Hexicon has special technology that allows it to place two turbines on one base, meaning they can squeeze more turbines into a smaller space.

Although the scale of the project is huge, the final site is expected to be up to 200 sq km.

With Science Foundation Ireland, Hexicon is co-funding an 18-month research project to build a multi-objective decision-making and obstacle-mapping tool. This will be used to identify areas suitable for floating wind farms using data sets that include biodiversity, sediment types, protected sites, geotechnical and geophysical with commercial fisheries data and KFOs and other marine stakeholders. Contains expert interpretation provided via Researchers from UCC and UCD have been roped in to assist with the project.

‘We are better at setting guidelines and target positions so we still have a thriving fishing industry’

The project is still some time away, with neither Hexicon or KFO expecting the wind farm to be up and running for at least six to seven years. “We have a very rough idea that it will be off the south coast of Donegal,” O’Donoghue says.

He acknowledged that there is a financial opportunity for KFO to see the project succeed. “We see there are opportunities for our ships to get involved. We are better equipped to set guidelines and targets, so we still have a thriving fishing industry.”

He also says that Kilibegs had “vast experience” in servicing offshore development and had supported Corrib for years, something that influenced Thor.

The growth will support jobs in the region, but no one is willing to give a figure of how big the benefits could be for the local community, yet. Thor says: “It takes a while to match the needs with the opportunities and possibilities, but this is a moot point. In any gigawatt development you should expect considerable growth in neighboring areas as well.

“We see this as a game changer for Donegal,” O’Donoghue says. “We look at this project not tomorrow or next year, but in 15 years’ time. Instead of all the graduates of Donegal, Sligo and Derry leaving, they will migrate back. We really want to make it really a game for the next generation. See it as a changer.”


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