A Spanish-British joint venture plans two offshore electricity generators in the Irish Sea in an estimated €5.5 billion development.
Offshore Wind Ltd, a partnership of Spain's Cobra and British operator Flotation Energy, plans to build electricity plants off the Wexford and Wicklow coasts with a total capacity of 2,500 megawatts (MW).
Industry sources estimate the total cost of the required investment at more than €5.5 billion should Offshore Wind go ahead with the plans. The company intends to build a wind farm capable of generating 1,000MW of electricity at full capacity off Greystones, Co Wicklow, close to Dublin, where demand for energy is strongest.
Offshore Wind has also earmarked a site off Blackwater, Co Wexford, for a floating wind farm with the capacity to produce 1,500MW of electricity.
A single megawatt hour provides enough energy to power more than 900 homes for an hour.
The company did not say how much each development would cost, but industry figures estimate the cost of the Greystones project at €2 billion to €2.5 billion.
Floating wind costs run at about €2 billion for every 1,000MW, with a further €100 million bill for development and planning, which puts a €3 billion-plus price tag on the Blackwater development.
A growing number of businesses are considering Irish waters for floating wind projects. Advocates of the technology say that these plants can be built further out to sea, where they can take advantage of higher and more consistent wind speeds than farms closer to shore or on land. Consequently, they can generate more electricity.
Industry groups such as Wind Energy Ireland want the Government to expand the Renewable Energy Support Scheme to provide backing for floating wind by 2025. The scheme supports green energy projects by guaranteeing prices paid for the electricity they produce.
Cobra is building the Kincardine floating wind farm, located about 15km off Aberdeen in Scotland.
Offshore Wind said it hoped to secure planning for the two Irish projects once the Oireachtas passes new laws meant to shake up rules governing development on the Republic's coast and territorial waters.
The Government recently published the latest draft of the legislation, the Maritime Area Planning Bill, which politicians will begin debating this year.
An Offshore Wind spokesman said the company was keen to enter the Irish market. “Our experience in delivering the world’s largest floating project – the Kincardine offshore wind farm – gives us invaluable knowledge and will be crucial to progressing quickly and making these projects a success,” he said.
The company hopes to begin selling electricity from the two developments by 2030, he added.