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Project Ireland Selected in First Offshore Wind Auction Now Overlaps With Proposed Bird Protection Area

The North Irish Sea Array (NISA), one of the four offshore wind projects selected in Ireland’s first offshore wind auction, could end up overlapping with a bird protection area. The Irish offshore consultancy Gavin and Doherty Geosolutions (GDG) voiced concerns about the government letting this happen and warned that the project is now at risk due to the government’s “failure to cooperate”.

“This project’s future and it won’t be the only one, is now in peril before it even reaches the planning stage”, said Paul Doherty, Director and Founder of GDG.

According to GDG, last week, the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) proposed a candidate special protection area (SPA) in the north-west Irish Sea which spans 230,000 hectares, making it Ireland’s largest protected zone for birds.

“Regrettably, the proposed SPA designation significantly overlaps with one of the designated sites for an offshore wind farm, which is integral to achieving Ireland’s 2030 targets”, GDG stated in a press release on 19 July.

In May, the Irish government selected four projects with a combined capacity of nearly 3.1 GW in the first offshore wind auction under the country’s Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (ORESS 1): the 1,300 MW Codling Wind Park, the 824 MW Dublin Array, the 500 MW North Irish Sea Array (NISA), and the 450 MW Sceirde Rocks.

According to information shared by GDG, a consultant to almost all the Irish offshore renewable energy projects and marine policy advisor to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications (DECC), the project now overlapping with the proposed protected area is the 500 MW NISA, owned and developed by a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) and Statkraft.

The Irish consultancy has raised concerns about “the inadequate collaboration between Irish government departments and state agencies with the offshore wind sector” and said this jeopardises the successful delivery of current projects and significantly undermines Ireland’s 2030 decarbonisation targets.

“Once again, we find ourselves facing significant barriers hindering strategic offshore energy projects. This situation could have been avoided if government departments and state agencies had engaged properly with our industry. While our sector fully supports measures to conserve habitats and protect seabirds, we urgently need cohesive thinking and real collaboration if we are to contribute towards the slowing of the global rate of temperature rise”, Paul Doherty said.

The company has called on the Irish government to avoid similar situations in the future by establishing effective channels of communication with the offshore wind industry and urged the government to recognise the long-term benefits of collaborative planning and decision-making.

Following the completion of its first offshore wind auction, the Irish government is planning to continue to Phase Two tenders, with the first round, ORESS 2.1, planned to launch at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

The area proposed to be auctioned off in ORESS 2.1 is located off the South coast of Ireland and will see developers bidding to build a single 900 MW project or two 450 MW offshore wind farms.

Source : Offshore Wind Biz