Wind farm developers concerned about lack of marine expertise by An Bord Pleanála – The Irish Times

Developers behind the state’s largest offshore wind farm, which is expected to power 1.2 million homes, have raised concerns about the lack of specialized resources in An Bord Pleanála to process their application.

Renewable energy companies EDF and Fred Olsen plan to develop the Codling Wind Park, a €2 billion project involving up to 100 turbines, 13 to 22 km off the east coast between Greystones and the town of Wicklow. The wind farm also requires an onshore substation on Dublin’s Poolbeg Peninsula to connect to EirGrid’s grid.

The group hopes to submit a planning application for the development in the coming months, but have told Dublin City Council that the lack of expertise at An Bord Pleanála poses a “real risk to completing the project” within the timeframe given Achieving the climate goals is required.

Codling is the largest of seven proposed offshore renewable energy projects approved by the government for the marine area last December, allowing them to move into the pre-planning phase. The state has set a goal of generating 80 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Currently, about 33 to 34 percent of electricity comes from renewable sources, with Codling promising to fill 20 percent of the gap.

Developers have already begun preliminary planning and hope to apply for planning permission later this year to begin construction in 2026 and operations in 2028 to meet the 2030 target.

However, Fiona Campbell, onshore consent manager for codling, told the council’s environment committee there were serious concerns about the board’s ability to process the application in a timely manner to meet those goals.

“On board Pleanála is in a difficult situation, they are underfunded and have no seafaring experience at the moment,” she said. “Although from our understanding they are doing their best to hire and onboard people to deal with these applications.”

Codling and the other projects that were granted maritime approval last December have “lobbied fairly heavily for a number of years” to have the resources to process the upcoming applications dedicated to the planning committee.

“This is an important aspect of the project. We are concerned that we will not be able to determine these applications in a timely manner, as we anticipate that the remaining Phase 1 projects will also plan to enter the system around the same time,” she said, adding that this is impossible to do around determine whether the project timeline was “in any way realistic”.

“We have loads of consultants as you can imagine, we have legal teams, planning teams who have many years of experience with An Bord Pleanála, but it’s all just a bit unknown and it’s a real risk to deliver the projects in our timeframe , but it is largely out of our control. We are doing as much as we can to influence it, but we will be largely at their mercy.”

A spokeswoman for An Bord Pleanála said a new naval unit had been set up and a director for planning, naval and climate was appointed. She said the board “intends to establish a panel of qualified advisers to advise on appointments and applications” and is promoting those roles. Wind farm developers concerned about lack of marine expertise by An Bord Pleanála – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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