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'It's a huge announcement for the area': Reaction to major offshore windfarm plans

It has been announced that a major offshore windfarm beside Louth plans to begin commercial operations in the early-2020s.

PLANS FOR A major offshore windfarm to begin operating in the early-2020s off the coast of Louth have been welcomed by a number of councillors. 

When up and running, the windfarm will generate enough capacity to supply electricity to around 280,000 households, most of the population in Louth and Meath. 

The ESB is to acquire up to 35% of the Oriel project, which is located in the Irish Sea off the coast of Dundalk, which is being developed by a company called Parkwind. 

The Oriel offshore windfarm is in the development stage and is located around 22km off the coast of Dundalk. 

Development of the project began in 2003 and Parkwind entered the project in September 2017.

The Oriel windfarm has the capacity of up to 330MW and is planned to begin commercial operations in the early-2020s. 

Oriel plans to also contribute to the reduction of Ireland’s carbon emissions by 600,000 tonnes per annum. 

‘People may have concerns around the visual impact’

Speaking about the announcement, local Fine Gael councillor Maria Doyle told that she’s “delighted” and that it’s “terrific to see progress on the project”. 

“It’s a huge announcement for the area,” she said. 

Doyle did, however, acknowledge that the wind farms may have a visual impact on the local area, but that a “balance” needs to be struck between those issues and tackling climate change. 

“It remains to be seen what the visual impact will be but I think people are much more aware of climate issues, we’ve had huge problems with the flooding in the Louth area over the last few years,” Doyle said. 

People are much more aware in recent years of the impact of climate change and reducing our carbon footprint and so on, and how important that is going to be from now on. 

Discussing potential concerns people may have, Doyle added: “People may have concerns around the visual impact of a wind farm, how far it is from the coast, how visible it will be, how large it will be, will it dominate the coastline, or is it something people could get easily used to? All that will probably pan out over the next while.” 

Echoing Doyle’s words, local Green Party councillor Mark Dearey told that the news of the progress being made “has to be welcomed, really and truly”. 

He said that he hopes the “argument for renewables is now well made” but added that there will be an “inevitable distraction” caused to landscapes and seascapes. 

It’s a trade-off that we have to make now, given the very, very steep declines in carbon generations that this country needs to commit itself to. 

“This is an indication to me that there is hope now that we won’t breach the 2030 [targets], specifically because the ESB is involved, it suggests that finally the State and its agents are acting in a very serious way,” Dearey said.  

Making the announcement yesterday,  Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Richard Bruton said: “[The] announcement is a significant development for Ireland’s offshore wind industry.

“I am determined to make Ireland a leader in climate action. Renewable energy is critical to this ambition. With a sea area almost 10 times the size of its landmass, Ireland has very significant offshore wind capacity and this partnership is a testament to our potential in this area,” he said.

Meanwhile, ESB and Parkwind also plan to work together on the Clogherhead project for which the ERB holds a foreshore licence to begin site investigations. 

Parkwind will acquire up to 35% of the Clogherhead project. However, this project is in its early stages of planning.

Carbon tax

Ireland’s attempts to tackle climate change have made headlines repeatedly in recent months. 

Ireland’s performance in taking action against climate change was ranked the worst in Europe in a report published in December

The Climate Change Performance Index ranked Ireland 48th out of 56 countries, with a score of 40.84, far below the EU average of 60.65. 

Varadkar has previously described Ireland as a “laggard” on the issue as it will miss emission reduction targets and faces significant EU fines. 

Earlier this month, Varadkar said the government is looking at two models to increase carbon tax.

Any changes to the carbon tax will not apply until 2020, unless the measures are introduced on the night of the budget this year, said the Taoiseach. However, that will be a decision made nearer the time.

Varadkar told his party members last week that he does not want to “penalise” people, but said it is inevitable that a carbon tax will be introduced.

He said this means a tax on coal, home heating oil, diesel, petrol and gas. 

“Essentials for the vast majority of people and ones over which most people do not have much control,” Varadkar said.

“We do not want to penalise people but encourage them to change their behaviour in the long-term. We want people to know what the tax will be in 2030 and how it will increase each year between now and then,” he said.

With reporting by Christina Finn

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