KEVIN O'SULLIVAN in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt Ireland has joined a global alliance, which includes some of the world's biggest offshore wind energy producing countries, to rapidly ramp up production with increasing collaboration on know-how and sharing of technology.
Its new members were unveiled at a meeting attended by ministers for climate and energy from the EU and Australia at Cop27 yesterday.
A total of new 11 countries including Belgium, Colombia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, the UK, the US, Australia and Portugal have joined the Global Offshore Wind Alliance (Gowa).
Initiated by the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), Denmark and the Global Wind Energy Council, it emerged from Cop26 last year with a view to bringing together governments, the private sector, international organisations and other stakeholders to accelerate deployment of offshore wind power.
It has also been endorsed by the World Bank and some of the world's largest wind generation companies.
Ireland's Minister for Climate Eamon Ryan said collaboration on developing offshore wind energy was set to be "the peace project of our time".
He confirmed Ireland would have its first offshore wind auction next month with a view to delivering 5 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. This would be mainly for the Irish Sea "but the prize for us is in the west of Ireland, one of the windiest places on the planet", he added.
The biggest challenge, he predicted, would be scaling up supply chains, providing the ships required and putting in place the cabling and interconnectors needed to facilitate sharing of energy. "We are doing it for energy security and for climate reasons," he added.
Critical to success, Mr Ryan said, was ensuring community support for offshore projects while protecting nature. Ireland was like Japan in having to contend with waters that get deep quickly, he noted - and hoped the two countries could work together on resolving challenges in that regard.
Danish minister for climate and energy Dan Joergensen said offshore was often the cheapest source of electricity "and many times cheaper than coal and nuclear, which is pretty fantastic".
It could generate vast quantities of energy at global scale but this would only happen through partnerships, setting standards and showing tangible ways to deliver on the green transition.
Global Wind Energy Council chief executive Ben Blackwell said when the alliance initially set a target of 380GW by 2030, there was a view it was "a bit too spicy and ambitious" but a year on, and governments had already pledged 370GW. "This is realisable if we get planning and regulation right," he added.
Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy Rob Jetten said the North Sea - "the electricity factory of the EU delivering energy to millions and millions of people" - would be generating 260GW by 2050 under the auspices of the North Sea Energy Cooperation, which includes Ireland.
This North Sea working with Gowa would enable system-wide integration of offshore and onshore wind, hydrogen production and solar energy, he believed.
Belgian energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten told the meeting it was accelerating the energy transition with quadrupling the offshore wind capacity by 2040, building "a hybrid energy island", as well as new interconnections with North Sea countries.
The efficiency of wind, she suggested, was illustrated by the fact that just three turns of a modern wind turbine generates enough power to recharge an EV.