Dublin Array is a proposed offshore wind farm that will be a major contributor to meeting Ireland’s renewable energy targets.
Dublin Array will be located in the Irish Sea, about 10 kilometres off the coast of south Co Dublin and Wicklow on the Kish and Bray Banks. It will comprise approximately 39 to 50 wind turbines, capable of generating between 700 and 850 megawatts (MW) of clean, renewable energy per annum.
The project, which was first proposed in 1999, is being developed by RWE Renewables Ireland, which is part of one of the world’s largest offshore wind energy companies, in partnership with Irish company Saorgus Energy.
The Dublin Array wind farm is expected to generate enough renewable electricity to supply about 844,000 homes and businesses. The project has the potential to reduce Ireland’s carbon emissions by more than 1.5 million tonnes per year, and to significantly reduce the State’s reliance on imported gas.
The Dublin Array project was one of several offshore wind farms that were issued with a Maritime Area Consent (MAC) by the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, in December.
“The awarding of a MAC was a very significant milestone for Dublin Array and means that this nationally important project is now one step closer to development,” said Peter Lefroy, project director for Dublin Array, and the head of offshore development Ireland with RWE Ireland.
“Having been granted a MAC, Dublin Array is now embarking on another phase of public consultation in relation to the project,” Mr Lefroy added. “We intend to lodge a planning application with An Bord Pleanála later this year and we want to engage further with local communities to hear their views on the project. Subject to planning permission, the Dublin Array wind farm could be operational by the middle of 2028.”
Under revised Government targets, Ireland is aiming to have 80 per cent of its electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030. The target for offshore wind is 7,000MW and bringing Dublin Array to fruition will play a vital role in meeting that target.
Surveys and studies
The Kish and Bray Banks are a highly suitable location for an offshore wind farm. The annual average wind speed at this location is 9.7 metres per second at 100 metres above sea level. They also have shallow waters, with depths ranging from 2 to 30 metres, and very suitable ground conditions.
Tidal activity is not as vigorous as on the more exposed Atlantic coast, as the wave energy in the Irish Sea is only about 20 per cent of that in Ireland’s Atlantic coastal waters. The area around the Kish and Bray sandbanks is also free of shipping, as the shallow waters represent a hazard to large marine traffic.
Since the Dublin Array project was first granted permission to survey the site in 2000, numerous technical, engineering, and environmental surveys and studies have been carried out on the Kish and Bray Banks to inform the site-specific design process.
These studies have included ecological surveys, wind resource monitoring, seabed investigations, archaeological field investigations and wave, current, and wind measurements. All this valuable work is being incorporated into the project design, together with the additional surveys and studies that will be carried out in the coming years.
The proposed site is located adjacent to the greater Dublin area, which is the State’s largest user of electricity.
The electricity generated by Dublin Array will be carried to the existing electricity grid via underground offshore and onshore cables, while the wind farm’s proximity to shore will reduce the extent of submarine electricity cable required. EirGrid, which is the State’s electricity transmission operator, has confirmed the existing Carrickmines 220 kV transmission station as the connection point for Dublin Array. A number of options for the underground cable route to Carrickmines are currently being considered.
There has been significant technological innovation in the offshore wind industry since the project was originally planned. This means that Dublin Array will be able to deliver more electricity more efficiently with fewer turbines than had originally been planned.
The project originally consisted of 145 separate turbines. This number of turbines has now been reduced significantly, with the project now likely to feature between 39 and about 50 turbines. Although the turbines will be bigger under the current plan, there will be fewer of them, which will lessen many of the potential impacts of the overall project.
Dublin Array also brings significant economic benefits during construction and operation. More than 1,100 jobs will be created during the construction of the wind farm, and about 240 jobs will be created during the project’s operational period. Dublin Array’s operations and maintenance activities will be located within the Dún Laoghaire area, meaning the project will generate about €540 million in local expenditure across the greater Dublin region.
Aside from the environmental benefits of helping Ireland decarbonise its electricity supply system and the economic benefits of the development, Dublin Array will also have significant positive impact through its Community Benefit Fund. This will be a multi-million-euro fund per annum - the specific value of which will depend on the final size of the project - that will be distributed to a wide range of local projects. The fund will begin operations when construction of Dublin Array gets underway and will be managed by an independent Fund Administer.
RWE, which is the project lead for Dublin Array, has more than 25 years’ experience of delivering Community Benefit Funds, tailored to meet the individual needs of the communities in which it operates. In 2021, for example, wind farms operated by RWE in Ireland and the UK invested over €4.8 million in local communities.
Having obtained a Maritime Area Consent in December, Dublin Array intends to lodge a planning application with An Bord Pleanála later this year, under the new Maritime Area Planning Act.
Dublin Array is now holding a seven-week public consultation process to update local communities and stakeholders on its plans and to seek their views and feedback on the project. The consultation process, which is now underway, features events online and in-person at venues in Dublin and Wicklow.
A virtual consultation room is accessible on the Dublin Array website, with detailed information about the project and its benefits, and photomontages of how the wind farm will look from a range of vantage points.
The dates and locations of the consultation events are as follows:
- Thursday, January 26, Royal Marine Hotel, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin
- Wednesday, February 1, Little Flower Hall, Main St, Bray, Co Wicklow
- Saturday, February 4, Little Flower Hall, Main St, Bray, Co Wicklow
- Wednesday, February 8, Online webinar
- Wednesday, February 22, Greystones Rugby Club, Greystones, Co Wicklow
- Thursday, March 2, Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel, Killiney, Co Dublin
- Tuesday, March 7, Clayton Hotel, Leopardstown, Co Dublin
- Saturday, March 11, Clayton Hotel, Leopardstown, Co Dublin.
Dublin Array is placing strong local engagement and communication at the heart of the project. For further information see the online consultation room at www.dublinarray.com, email email@example.com, or telephone 01 9020317.