Senator Lisa Chambers Challenges Minister Ryan on Floating Wind Farms, Calls for Immediate Action to Harness Atlantic Wind Potential

Published on: 07 May 2024

Senator Lisa Chambers, Fianna Fáil's European Parliament candidate for the Midlands Northwest, following a weekend of canvassing in Galway and Mayo, has urged Minister for the Environment, Climate, and Communications Eamon Ryan to prioritise the national interest by releasing the reins he is stubbornly keeping on perhaps the biggest opportunity in the history of the State, floating offshore wind off the west coast.


Ms Chambers said that Minister Ryan is not alone refusing to pull the trigger on the starting gun that would transform Ireland into a global renewable energy giant, delivering its greatest economic dividend in the process, he is now seeking to confuse the issue and undermining investor interest in Ireland in the process.


“The issue here is very simple. Ireland has among the best winds in the world, floating wind energy investors are itching to get at it, but they cannot because the minister is refusing to allow zoning of the west coast. Zoning is the starting point. It’s how they know what area of our seabed they can invest in. Yet the only zoning the minister is allowing is predominantly off the east coast and some of the south. But the biggest opportunity is on the west coast where global experts say there is up to 70GW of harvestable wind, which is ten times our domestic requirement.


“Instead of doing the right thing in the national interest, getting over himself and his east coast bias, getting zoning up and running, triggering something that will create tens of thousands of jobs, he has now resorted to undermining the technology, telling us it’s not ready. And he’s undermining confidence in the industry here as a result. This is, remember, a green industry, so it’s absolutely bizarre that he doesn’t want to grab his own moment. There are now 10 offshore wind projects planned but only one off west coast and that's in an area of sensitivity, Sceirde Rocks, which should never be proposed in the first instance. That's the beauty of floating projects, the turbines are way out to sea, beyond line of sight.


“If the technology isn’t good enough for him, then why is the ESB investing in a floating wind project off the coast of Scotland. Why did Euqinor, the world leaders in this technology, come here and announce a partnership with the ESB for a west coast project but walk away months later because of what the ESB said was ‘regulatory uncertainty’. Two and a half years later, Minister Ryan still hasn’t moved, is still holding up the market.


“If the minister wants to wait until the technology is commercialising elsewhere, we will only then start zoning, spend years at it and will quite simply have lost a race we should already be out of sight on.”

Senator Chambers said other European nations, with nothing like Ireland’s opportunity, are showing Minister Ryan’s position up for what it is. “Minister Ryan’s comments about the technical challenges and that floating wind farms would not withstand Irish wave heights overlook the advancements and confidence other maritime nations have in this technology.


“Countries like Scotland and Portugal have operational floating wind farms that have withstood severe weather conditions, including storm Ophelia and storm Ciaran, which brought waves much higher than the typical conditions off our own coasts," she added.


She added, “The reality here is the Minister does not care about the west coast. It’s all about the east coast and what can be done for there. He’s talking now about a demonstrator project, possibly off the coast of Galway. While it’s welcome, it feels like a crumb he’s throwing at us to keep us quite. But it won’t because it is not bringing  the starting line, which is zoning, any closer for us.


“Meanwhile, investment will simply not come here. Investment in the ports required to support the industry will not happen. Because of one man, one restrictive green ideology, we all lose. The west of Ireland loses.”


“He stopped an LNG facility going ahead in the Shannon Estuary that would have been a transitional fuel to help secure our interim energy supply until we switched off to wind. That’s an area of the country starved of investment as well. He’s trying to stop so much of normal life across the west of Ireland. It’s like, when it comes to rural Ireland, it’s a red light not a green light that the Minister is now known for.”


Referencing the Shannon Estuary Economic Taskforce Report launch just a few short months ago, which set out the blueprint for the floating offshore industry off the west coast of Ireland, Senator Chambers recalled Minister Ryan’s own words, where he stressed the urgency of renewable energy projects with the phrase, “He said ‘build it now’. It’s perplexing that the Minister's unbridled enthusiasm for what was set out that day suddenly nosedived," she added.


In her statement, Senator Chambers called for the decentralisation of decision-making to local authorities, who are well-placed to manage the development of Designated Maritime Area Plans (DMAPs) and ensure community involvement and benefit from these projects. "Allowing local authorities to lead these initiatives ensures greater transparency, community engagement, and adaptability to local needs and conditions. It’s essential for ensuring that the benefits of such developments are felt directly by the communities that support them."