The Irish government, acknowledging that the current developer-led approach to offshore windfarm development is not in the public interest, is finally moving to update our outdated system of marine licensing, with the publication of (1) the Marine Planning and Development Management Bill, 2019 and (2) Ireland's first Marine Spatial Plan, the draft National Marine Planning Framework and its accompanying SEA. Public consultation on the draft plan closed April 30th 2020.
With a Maritime Area of over 490,000 square kilometers, Ireland does not need to degrade its sensitive near-shore habitats and unspoilt seascapes to avail of offshore wind. Our coastline, which is so much part of our collective heritage and identity, remains unspoilt and is of enormous value to the Irish people.
Ireland has an opportunity now to adopt a measured approach to offshore renewable energy development, learning from experience in other EU countries and adopting policies and technologies which protect our marine environment, our treasured coastal landscapes and our economy.
A review of the manner in which two of the biggest offshore wind farms in the world were approved in Wicklow’s near-shore waters by the Minister for the Marine under outdated legislation, with no statutory involvement of local authorities, no public right of appeal , no strategic environmental assessment and no independent, professional analysis of cumulative landscape impacts. (These developments, originally proposed as involving over 200 turbines up to 150m high, are the 520MW Arklow Bank Wind Park off Arklow and the 1100MW Codling Wind Park off Bray Head).
An independent professional assessment of the landscape impacts of these developments which will have significant adverse impact on unspoilt coastal landscapes, (from Killiney Bay through County Wicklow to N. Wexford ) designated for protection in county development plans.
An open analysis of the cost of the price subsidies and grid development necessary to connect these projects to the Irish grid and the impact on Ireland’s price competitiveness.
A strategic plan-led policy framework for the development of offshore renewables to replace the current developer-led approach.
Comprehensive Strategic Environmental Assessment of the Irish coastline (including Wicklow) to be carried out with full public participation in line with EU legislation.
Marine Spatial Planning based on an ecosystem approach, to protect the marine environment and provide greater certainty about where developments should be allowed.
A 12 nautical mile exclusion zone (22.2km) for offshore wind farms to protect Ireland’s coastal landscapes and in-shore wildlife.
Integrated Coastal Zone Management to manage the land /sea divide, promote public participation and ensure local communities have a say in what happens to their coastline.
Cost/ benefit analysis of offshore renewable energy devices - wind, wave and tidal - to establish the best options for Ireland from an economic, environmental and social point of view.