An offshore windfarm is a collection of wind turbines. Each wind turbine is either fixed directly to the seabed or is attached to a floating foundation on the surface, which is then anchored in position. Wind forces cause the turbine blades to rotate creating large amounts of electricity which is then transferred to shore via a subsea cable. From there the electricity can be used, for example, to power homes, businesses, and transport around the country, or even exported abroad
Wind conditions offshore are much more favourable than on land with a stronger and more consistent wind resource. In addition, taller turbines can be used offshore allowing a single turbine to generate as much energy as three or even four onshore turbines. Floating offshore wind technology allows turbines to be located farther from shore, in waters too deep to make fixed bottom alternatives economically viable, further minimising visual impacts
Floating offshore wind projects involve developing an array of offshore turbines supported on floating substructures that are moored and anchored to the seabed. The turbines generate electricity which is typically fed back to shore via an export cable.
With the development of more offshore wind farms, additional investment in technology and the supply chain is allowing the cost of generating this energy to decrease rapidly. In the UK, offshore wind energy is now cheaper than nuclear, and nearly as cheap as gas-powered generation. As the market grows in Scotland, it is expected that energy costs will fall significantly.
Floating wind turbines can be deployed in varying water depths due to the flexible design that can utilise a keel or spar arrangement depending on the water depths or sea condition requirements (OWC report 2020 commissioned by Simply Blue Group). There are currently several types of different floating turbine technologies. The floating units are secured to the seabed via a mooring arrangement connected to several anchor points. The mooring and anchor system is designed to resist the wave loading that the structure experiences from the surrounding environment.
(Source:Eirwind – Kandrot et al., 2019)
Comprehensive studies are undertaken during the design of offshore energy installations to understand historic and future weather patterns. Offshore wind farms are designed, constructed, and operated in consideration of extreme weather events and operational ranges of the devices.
Simply Blue Group is a leading blue economy developer pioneering blue economy projects – floating offshore wind, wave energy and low-impact aquaculture – all in harmony with the oceans.
As a global Irish Company, headquartered in Cork, Simply Blue Group (SBG) also have offices in Dublin, Edinburgh, Pembroke, Newquay, Oregon, and Hamburg, with a rapidly scaling team of over 100 across the globe.
The Simply Blue Group was established in 2011 and has assembled an experienced board and executive team for the purposes of developing both offshore wind and wave energy farms. The Simply Blue Group are currently developing floating offshore wind development projects in Wales and hit a significant milestone in March 2020 by securing a major JV partner, TOTAL, to develop floating wind sites in the Welsh waters of the Celtic Sea. An application to the Crown Estate was successful in securing seabed rights for the first demonstration site, the 96MW Erebus Project southwest of Pembroke Dock. Erebus will potentially be the largest floating wind farm in the globe in the latter stage of this decade. Find out more here.
In July 2020, the Simply Blue Group announced Emerald, another floating offshore wind project off the south coast of Cork in the vicinity of the Kinsale gas platform which is currently being decommissioned. This project envisions the transformation of the maritime landscape in the area of the Kinsale gas platform into a zone for the production of clean, renewable offshore wind energy. The Emerald project is currently progressing through early planning stages. Find out more here.
The Simply Blue Group are progressing an innovative Wave Energy Conversion (WEC) demonstrator project called Saoirse that is also located off the west coast of Co. Clare, 4km from the shore and will have a capacity of 5MW. This project aims to be one of the first of its kind in the world and will show that WEC is viable off Ireland west coast and be a step towards co-location of FOW and WEC devices. For more information, please visit the project website here.
Simply Blue Group has a strong ethos of stakeholder engagement and initial discussions have identified several challenges for the offshore wind industry in Ireland including the intrusive visual impacts that may be experienced from nearshore sites. Listening to our stakeholders, Simply Blue Group made the decision to focus on projects further from shore to minimise the visual impact. For sites far from shore, floating wind technology is required due to the water depths encountered.
Nomadic Offshore Wind is a floating wind project, pre-commercial project size of 100MW and up to 500MW of generative capacity, located between Northern Ireland and Islay of South Hebrides (Scotland).
As projects of this scale represent massive capital investment into local areas, there is considerable opportunity for local employment. Simply Blue Group will support local job creation at all stages, including by working with the fishing industry to explore opportunities for future employment and by actively encouraging local content in our supply chain.
There will be employment opportunities in each of the project phases. The most significant employment opportunities will come during the operations phase of the wind farm, which will require a team of several hundred to service the turbines on a daily basis. These jobs will be long-term (up to 30 years), permanent and will be local. We anticipate that this project will have a transformative positive impact on local communities along the coast, creating jobs and boosting the supply chain.
Simply Blue Group believes strongly in working with local businesses and will actively encourage and prioritise local supply chains wherever possible. Simply Blue Group’s philosophy is to develop and nurture the local supply chain through phased “stepping-stone” developments, allowing local suppliers and communities to grow in tandem with the project stages. This stepping-stone approach will help to maximise the value to the local community.
The offshore wind farm will interface with the shore in several areas: (i) an onshore landfall for the export cable and associated cabling back to an onshore substation and (ii) an operations and maintenance base to service the offshore wind farm. Both elements of the project will be subject to the onshore planning process and will be undertaken with a view to minimising onshore disruption, whilst also maximising the local supply chain opportunities.
Any activity in the marine space has the potential to impact on seabirds and other marine life. Offshore wind at scale is in its infancy in Irish waters however there is over 20 years of experience in other European countries to draw upon. The project will be designed to minimise the impact on wildlife and will follow international best practice established through years of post-development monitoring, observations and other research. The development will be subject to a full Environmental Impact Assessment and Appropriate Assessment as it progresses through the planning process and Simply Blue Group will implement any mitigation measures that have been proven to be effective where there is a real risk to the environment.
Studies suggest that offshore wind farms may act as artificial reefs and marine protected areas, increasing fish and shellfish abundance, and in turn prey availability*.
*Kingsley, A. & Whittam, B. (2005). Wind Turbines and Birds: A Background Review for Environmental Assessment. Bird Studies Canada, Environment Canada, Quebec.
Hunt, W. & Jessopp, M. (2019). Impacts from Offshore Wind Farms on Marine Mammals and Fish – A review of the current knowledge, EirWind Project Deliverable D4.13 Report, MaREI Centre, ERI, University College Cork, Ireland. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3948460