A fund of €31 million has been approved for a four-year floating offshore wind project in Belmullet.
It is projected that a full-scale floating wind turbine will be deployed for testing off the west coast of Ireland at a Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI ) test site near Belmullet by 2022.
The project is led by the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC ) working in partnership with SEAI, SAIPEM, and other organisations in France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the UK.
With funding now secured from Interreg North West Europe, it is planned that the first full-scale floating wind turbine will be deployed for testing at the SEAI test site within three years.
Mayo County Council has worked alongside the SEAI over the past three years to ensure the project received the green light and funding. Welcoming the announcement, chief executive Peter Hynes said: "We are delighted with the announcement of the proposed floating wind project to be deployed off the coast of Belmullet. This places Mayo at the heart of the renewable energy industry and offers huge opportunities for the development of supply chain and supporting industries to develop and flourish here in Mayo."
Michael O’Boyle, head of marine development with Mayo County Council, added: "Mayo County Council has been facilitating the SEAI over the last three years in developing its offshore test site off the Belmullet coast. We see this as the first step in harnessing what is now considered the greatest renewable energy resource anywhere in Europe if not the world."
Cathaoirleach Cllr Blackie Gavin also welcomed the announcement, stating: "This breakthrough is great news for Mayo and a reward for all the hard work of our Enterprise and Investment Unit and is a major step forward for marine development on the west coast. We look forward to seeing it being pushed ahead as a matter of urgency.”
The Interreg-funded project aims to demonstrate the survivability and cost-competitiveness of floating offshore wind technology and to support the development of an active supply chain in the region, which is noted for having some of the strongest wind and ocean resources in the world. The project is known as AFLOWT (Accelerating market uptake of Floating Offshore Wind Technology ) and is the first project of its kind at such scale to draw on expertise from right across Europe.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton, also welcomed the news, saying: "Decarbonising our electricity supply will be crucial to becoming a leader in climate change. We are fortunate in Ireland to have such a fantastic wind energy resource. Almost one third of Ireland’s electricity currently comes from renewables, with wind being the highest contributor. However, we need to step up our ambition in this area and stretch ourselves farther. I welcome this project as an excellent opportunity to further explore the potential of offshore wind."