Seven offshore wind farms have been issued with maritime area consents (MACs) by Irish environment minister Eamon Ryan, reports Lorna Siggins.
The seven projects include six Irish Sea projects that will have an impact on fishing activity, along with Skerd Rocks in Galway Bay on the west coast.
The six Irish Sea projects are Oriel Wind Park, Arklow Bank II, Bray Bank, Kish Bank, North Irish Sea Array and Codling Wind Park (Codling I and Codling II).
All seven projects can now begin their pre-planning application engagement with the Irish planning appeals board.
The award of an MAC also enables these phase one projects to participate in Ireland’s Offshore Renewable Energy Support Scheme 1 (ORESS 1), the first auction for offshore wind under the Renewable Electricity Support Scheme.
ORESS 1 is expected to procure approximately 2.5GW of electricity generating capacity, said Eamon Ryan.
Projects that have been granted a MAC will be required to apply for development permission and secure a route to market within set timeframes, he explained.
“These first Maritime Area Consents have been carefully drafted to promote the speedy and efficient deployment of offshore renewable energy, while ultimately protecting the Irish state’s rich and unique maritime resource, in line with the principles of the National Marine Planning Framework,” Eamon Ryan said.
Only one small offshore wind farm – a 25MW offshore farm generating power in the Wicklow region – was constructed under the old foreshore regime prior to the enactment of the new Maritime Area Planning Act.
This provides for the establishment of the Maritime Area Regulatory Authority (MARA) – a dedicated maritime area agency which is a ‘priority for the government’, Eamon Ryan’s department said.
“Work on the establishment of MARA is being led by the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and will be in place in early 2023, as set out in the Climate Action Plan,” it said.
Several promised deadlines for the establishment of MARA – which will take over the licensing function for issuing MACs from the minister – have already passed.
“In the interim, the legislation provides the minister for the environment, climate and communications with the powers to assess the first batch of MAC applications,” it explained.
Despite the establishment of MARA, licensing for aquaculture activities will continue to be handled by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the Foreshore Act 1933.
Irish housing and local government minister Darragh O’Brien has said this function will be transferred to MARA, and aquaculture licensing may be governed by the maritime area planning legislation.