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    Major plans for 92-turbine off-shore Kerry wind farm move forward


    December 6, 2022 - Sinead Kelleher and Declan Malone

     

      Plans for a multi-million euro offshore floating wind farm off Valentia Island have taken a step forward with the Government now considering an application for a foreshore licence. This will allow investigations to be carried out in several locations off South Kerry and Dingle to inform the development and design of the energy project.

      The planned wind farm led by Valentia Island Energy Ltd, would generate enough power to meet the electricity demands of over 790,000 homes or provide enough energy to power 1,460,000 electric vehicles for a year. But even with all going according to plan, it will be at least 10 years before the project gets off the ground.

      The Department of Housing is currently in the process of deciding on an application from Valentia Island Energy (VIE) for permission to conduct preliminary site investigations in a 47,407 hectare area about 15 miles south west of the Blaskets.

      The permission being sought for site investigations includes an approx. two-mile wide channel from the proposed windfarm site to the mainland, coming ashore at three locations in West Kerry and one in South Kerry. VIE wants to examine the suitability of these channels as routes for connecting the proposed windfarm to the national electricity grid.

      The site investigation map shows the possible sites where cables would come ashore: Ballymore on the edge of Ventry Harbour, the lighthouse area at the mouth of Dingle Harbour, the area around Minard Castle and at Kells Bay in South Kerry.

      It is not yet known when the Department of Housing will make a decision on the licence but is expected that it could be within six months.

      The application was made earlier this year and has been published by the Department to make the public aware of the planned project and the investigation areas.

      It is expected that survey works will be carried out on a phased basis between April and October of each year and over five years. The total extent of the Investigation Area being applied for under this foreshore licence application is roughly 47,407 hectares.

      Valentia Island Energy Ltd is a partnership between Valentia Energy Co-Op and Energy Co-ops Ireland but those behind the project say they will need a third party with extensive knowledge of offshore development and with finance to develop the project.

      A map which was published last week showing the proposed windfarm site investigation area extending into most of Dingle Bay has caused concern among fishermen and tour boat operators in West Kerry.

      However, a spokesperson for VIE told The Kerryman that the map which included Dingle Bay was an earlier draft outlining the broad area of interest, whereas the map (pictured) defines the specific areas where VIE wants to conduct site investigations.

      “There is no intention or plan to locate an array of wind turbines inside Dingle Bay,” said VIE Chairman Colum O’Connell. He added that if the windfarm development goes ahead in the proposed location the turbines would be just about visible on the horizon when viewed from the coast.

      There will be a phased approach to development which incorporates two development phases to incorporate a possible 92 turbines in separate arrays. They are expected to be 100m – 150m high and are to be located roughly 20kms to the west of Inishvickillane and about 15kms to the west of the Skelligs at its closest point. It is also envisaged that the turbines would generate green hydrogen fuel.

      Mr O’Connell said this is the first step in a long process which will include lengthy engagement with stakeholders.

      "It is a very rigorous process. It could be up to 10 years. This is an important step. It is the first step in a very long process. It is a huge investment in South Kerry," he said

      He said that engagement with all stakeholders including communities across South and West Kerry will be key to ensuring the project comes to fruition and helps South Kerry lead the way in renewable and green energy.

      He added that he couldn’t even speculate on the overall cost of the project but that it would be “serious money”. This money would come from partners “with experience in wind energy projects, onshore and offshore”. Colum said VIE is already engaged in a consultation process with potential partners. He declined to name them but said they were international companies

      After that they would have to seek ‘Maritime Area Consent’ as a first step in securing marine area planning permission. This would involve public and stakeholder consultation as well as a procurement process.

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